E-commerce merchants often focus on improving their business website’s SEO in order to place it high on the SERP and generate site traffic. However, focusing only on SEO and generating traffic can lead to a low site conversion rate. This is because site customers are typically derived from targeted traffic streams where the visitors already have a vested interest in the online business’s products/services. To increase your site’s visitor-to-customer conversion rate, you need to focus on generating targeted traffic streams. In the process, you’ll still improve your website’s SEO- as well as its bottom line. Here are 10 methods for generating targeted traffic streams on your e-commerce website:
Many e-commerce sites are setting up blogs as a way of building an online audience that is receptive to trying out and purchasing the company’s products/services. This eliminates the long time-to-market that exists for most companies that are introducing a new product, promotion, ad, etc. Blogs also help personalize a business by putting a face on the message. Popular blog posts can be picked up by services like Technorati, resulting in incredible site traffic.
An e-commerce blog can be established as part of the main business website or as an independent website of its own. If it is established as part of the business website, the blog can help draw immediate attention to an e-commerce site’s products. Frequent blog posts will help raise the e-commerce website in search engine rankings, putting it higher in the SERPs. The disadvantage of having the blog right on the business website is that it may not always be viewed as a true third party reference for the e-commerce site. Visitors and customers may be reluctant to post their opinions or feedback.
An e-commerce blog can also be established as a separate third party site through an online publishing platform such as WordPress or Typepad. Such a blog has the benefit of receiving a more accurate consumer response. The blog site can also help bolster the main business website by linking to it and appearing alongside of it on the SERPs. The disadvantage of having a separate blog site is that a lot more work must be put into maintaining its place on the SERP. Without frequent postings and upkeep, an independent e-commerce blog could fall into obscurity and even hurt the online reputation of the business (e.g., bad reviews, unintended branding, etc.).
2. Social media
Social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn generate a receptive consumer audience for product releases, coupons and promotions. Much like blogs, social media shortens the amount of time needed to test out a marketing concept, with the additional advantage being that it can make the concept go viral. As a result, an online business that advertises via social media can quickly become inundated with a huge amount of consumer interest and targeted traffic.
Social media promises an unprecedented amount of targeted traffic and consumer interest; what it demands is dedication to the platform being used. Many e-commerce merchants make the mistake of assuming that once a social media account is established, followers/friends/fans will automatically ensue. On the contrary, establishing a presence on a platform like Facebook, for example, requires daily content posting as well as follow-up comments to the postings of friends. Twitter “tweets” are short and concise, yet require that the link provided lead to quality content that is informative. Otherwise, the online community will lose interest in the business and it, in turn, will fall short of generating targeted traffic to its website.
3. Content syndication
Posting content on article submission sites like eZine and iSnare not only increases targeted traffic to an e-commerce site but also boosts your site’s SEO. This is because article submission sites offer a resource box wherein you can post the e-commerce website URL as well as any keyword-rich content that is relevant to the business. Visitors who type in keywords that match the posted content will be directed to those articles that are linked to the business website. Placing relevant keywords in the content of those articles will also enable their indexing by search engines and increase the chance of them appearing at the top of the SERPs.
Content syndication also helps establish you as an authority in your field. Readers trust you, and that means that they are also more likely to buy from you. Bloggers and webmasters of high PR sites may repost your content on their own sites, helping to publicize your site. Your content also has the chance of going viral if you post a link to it on your social media platform; such leveraging can multiply your site’s targeted traffic streams.
The problem with content syndication is that most article submission sites allow bloggers and webmasters to republish the content on their sites as long as the resource box remains intact with the reposted content. Duplicate content can lose its high PR as well as its prominent placement on the SERPs should search engines pick it up. The caveat to this is that, although reposted content may lose its value over time, it can help you discover blogs or websites on which you may become a guest blogger.
4. Sponsored reviews
Bloggers and webmasters often seek out additional income sources by reviewing business products and services. Sites like PayPerPost and ReviewMe offer interactive platforms where online businesses provide a monetary incentive to publishers who post content about an e-commerce product/service. In turn, publishers can accept or reject review assignments and negotiate monetary compensation.
Alternately, e-commerce sites that link to online marketing groups can also offer monetary and/or product compensation for published reviews. Online marketing groups offer the same traffic-generating benefits as an individual blog or website; however, they also provide the immediate presence of an audience that interacts directly with the merchant. This direct interaction can be invaluable for an online business looking to improve its products or streamline its processes.
The main advantage of sponsored reviews, as opposed to article submissions, is that each written review is the sole property of the blog or website to which it was published. Such content, because of its inherent uniqueness, is not flagged by search engines and marked as duplicate content (thus losing SERP placement over time). As a result, sponsored reviews and associated commentary are “evergreen” and not subject to limited prominence on the SERP.
Podcasts (which are a combination of the words portable on demand and broadcast) are defined as non-streaming digital media files that can be recorded in audio and/or visual format and be broadcast via web software programs such as @Podder and Podcast Amp. Many podcasts are released episodically, meaning that they are released as part of a sequential teaching or demonstration series. Despite their name, podcasts do not require the use of an iPod (or other portable media player like an MP3) in order to be downloaded and played; having a computer with the appropriate web software is the only necessity.
Online businesses frequently create podcasts about their newly released or improved products and then publish the podcasts to their websites. Podcast directories may also be utilized for releasing a podcast and for leveraging it across social media platforms. Visitors to an e-commerce website can receive new podcast releases and/or updates in their e-mails by subscribing to the site’s RSS feed. As a result, you as the e-commerce merchant are presented with several different media delivery options for generating targeted traffic.
A backlink is a link pointing from another site to your site. Backlinks from highly ranked blogs and websites can help establish your e-commerce site as an authority site, give it a prominent position on the SERPs, and generate much targeted traffic. Backlinks can be created in a number of ways, including blog comments, link exchanges and content syndication. Each of these methods carries its own advantages and disadvantages.
Backlinks that are generated when a merchant posts a comment to a blog are quite valuable because they often lead to targeted traffic from other blog subscribers. Relevant comments also help boost a business’s credibility and online reputation. The drawback to this approach is that it takes a significant amount of time. In many cases, the online business needs to hire a separate social media agent for this task. Alternately, backlinks can be easily gained if two e-commerce sites agree to “swap” links; however, because these sites now carry each other’s links, the potential for being viewed as a sole authority site is diminished.
Publishing content to other blogs or websites is also useful for generating backlinks and may be the best method for raising your website’s PR and placement on the SERPs; for example, if a high PR blog or website reposts your article content on its pages (necessitating the publishing of your resource box), you gain a valuable backlink for your own website. If you are asked to create a guest blog post on this site, your website’s PR is raised even further. This can unleash a lot of targeted traffic on your site. It is important to know that this approach is time-consuming and may also require policing of collaborating blogs to make sure that they comply with the intended message of the online business.
Another common technique used in gaining backlinks is to buy or rent them. Although this might be acceptable for acquiring a few high value links, it is not a recommended practice. The gains resulting from purchased/rented backlink-generated traffic always have a finite lifespan; furthermore, since buying links is like buying votes, such links could result in your website being removed from search engine indexes. In other words, don’t do it!
7. Online press releases
“Brick-and-mortar” businesses rely on press releases to disseminate information about product releases, business collaborations and other commercial events. Online press releases are similarly used by many e-commerce sites as a way of alerting customers and as a means of generating useful backlinks for the business website. Furthermore, news outlets (e.g., Yahoo! News) use online press releases to generate stories and reports.
Well-written online press releases can enhance a business’s credibility and online reputation. Press release content that is subject to SEO can drive targeted traffic to the e-commerce website because online media channels and other distribution channels will repost the news. Press releases can also be distributed via e-mail to current subscribers.
The drawback with online press releases, as with article submissions, is that reposted content carries the risk of being eventually devalued by search engine indexes. Due to this disadvantage, it may be better to publish the online press release to one syndication channel only and then “redistribute” the news by posting links to it via other social media platforms. This can easily be accomplished through social media synchronization tools such as Ping.fm, Hootsuite, GoGoStat Sync, or Posterous, allowing you to simultaneously publish on many social media sites.
8. Web directory submission
Submitting your e-commerce site to web directories can result in targeted traffic because most website directories categorize websites by their topic matter. Visitors will frequent the website categories in which they are most interested and which have the most relevant material for their purposes. Thus, it pays to provide a complete description of your e-commerce website when submitting it to directories.
There are free and paid website directories. The free directories can be a good source of links; however, they often have a significant backlog and take some time to list your site. Paid directories do not have a backlog; thus, your website may end up being placed sooner on a high PR site or a site that delivers high quality traffic. Finally, you may wish to submit your website to niche site directories that specialize in your e-commerce site subject matter. These directories (that can be found on sites like Internet Search Engine Database and Search Engine Guide) provide a good number of related links and categorize (and sub-categorizing) your site with similar sites. As a result, the traffic that results from a niche site directory is targeted only for your business’s products and services.
9. Ad networks
Ad networks like Google AdSense and Yahoo! Network offer e-commerce merchants the opportunity to pay for targeted traffic resulting from visitors clicking on their ads. Such PPC ads are based on specific keywords, with highly competitive keywords being quite expensive. Even if the conversion rate of these ads is high, the CPC rate may outstrip profits if the keywords being used carry too high of a premium.
To reduce the costs inherent in a PPC advertising campaign, you may use long-tailed keywords to draw in a targeted audience because these keywords cost significantly less than “mainstream” single keywords. Using long-tailed keywords also increases the odds of a network ad being listed at the top of the SERP due to the lower amount of competing network ads. Employ these keywords in your ad groups and landing pages too. Alternately, you may choose to advertise your e-commerce site on individual blogs and websites that subscribe to a third party ad network. Such advertising usually costs much less than search engine-based advertising.
10. Event media sponsorship
Media events such as conferences, seminars and symposia are ideal for e-commerce site sponsorship. Often overlooked by many online business websites, sponsorship of a media event includes such benefits as placing one’s link on the event website, plus the opportunity to include print, audio and video ads (and podcasts) with the event’s registration materials. Additionally, sponsors have the opportunity to set up their own booths and send out e-mail blasts to all event registrants. A large amount of targeted traffic and sales can result from such advertising.
Event media sponsorship can get expensive depending on the type of event. However, one can start small and find out just what type of profit margin is achieved. If the number of sales exceeds the cost of the sponsorship, a valuable new traffic generating tool has been found.