The Quest for Qualified Traffic Starts With the Fundamentals of SEO

Qualified traffic.

Small business owners and startups who rely heavily on their website for sales all stress over how to get more of it. Oh, and they want it cheap. Quite the conundrum!

There are lots of ways to get more traffic. All involve some level of investment (either time or money). None involve some level of magic (unfortunately, because that would be kind of cool).

Success acquiring qualified traffic starts with getting the basics right first. And the basics don’t always involve hiring a super-expensive SEO firm that claims they are going to make you millions in 3 months (by the way if anyone tells you that, just hang up).

If your website can do all of the following, you’ll see more qualified traffic. And it won’t burn a huge hole in your wallet.

1. SEO fundamentals – if you are going to do just one thing, this is the one. This all starts with making sure your keyword list is accurate (pertains to your specific products and services) and realistic. For example, stop trying to compete for the broad keywords that the big brands shell out tens of thousands of dollars per month to dominate. Start out with local terms and build your way up. If you can afford it, hire a professional to build that keyword list for you. If you don’t get that list right, it will make everything else on this list a lot harder.

Use those keywords to build your URLs and meta data (page titles and meta descriptions). Get those keywords in H1 tags, alt tags, and in the content (without blatantly stuffing them in there). Do all of these things are your website will have the basic foundation you need to start chasing organic traffic.

2. Choose the right domain –
whenever possible, build your website (or an affiliate website to feed your website traffic) around an exact match domain. For example, if your business is in car insurance, the most valuable domain in that industry will be Domains that are an exact match get bonus points from the search engines that can be tough for competitors to overcome.

3. Link-worthy content –
search engines love quality, unique content. And they like to see lots of it being added frequently. Coming up with a 6-12 month content strategy for your website is crucial. And every bit of content you create should always be worthy of a link, meaning someone reads it and thinks it’s so good that they want to link to it from their website or blog. If it doesn’t pass the linkworthiness test, toss it and move on to the next idea. Remember, links are GOLD. The more links you can acquire from quality and relevant sources, the better it will perform in organic search (which should lead to more traffic).

3A. Linkbait –
this is a lot easier said than done. It’s almost like trying to come up with an idea for a viral video. Everyone tries it, but very few execute it to the point they get a return. The thing I always tell people when they ask how to create something viral is to look within to see if your business produces unique data. Then think of a way to present it in a clever, visual way that doesn’t require any heavy lifting to understand. The best recent example I can think of was this post by Mint. This may or may not have come from internal data, but it sure garnered a lot of attention because it was topical and easy-to-grasp (especially the video). Look at all of the retweets and comments! Best of all, they picked up hundreds of links. That’s the real value.

4. Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising –
this is the the fastest way to pick up lots of qualified leads. It can also be the most expensive. If you have money to burn, try it yourself but don’t get frustrated with the long learning curve. Chances are you’ll be competing with professionals that really know how to play the PPC game. So many companies try to manage this on their own and become so disenchanted with the whole thing that refuse to get involved again. All that does is block a very valuable source of traffic. So either be patient or hire a pro.

5. StumbleUpon –
these days you have to be really lucky to have something get hot on Digg or Reddit. Don’t waste your time trying to compete. Stumble is an easy way to pick up some traffic. And it’s free to Stumble your own content! Just make sure when you Stumble something that you put it in the right category.

6. Word-of-mouth –
take extra good care of your customers and you will be rewarded. The more you make them feel like you’re listening, the more likely they are to refer you to their friends. It doesn’t cost anything to treat someone right.

7. Two-way conversation –
make your site social. The key here is you have to have great content. Try to write only about things that your target audience really cares about. Offer them a place to discuss it with you (like in a comment section). Not only will you get return traffic but you’ll learn a lot about what your customers think and want from a product like yours.

Here’s what didn’t make the list: Facebook and Twitter.

Look, you’re a startup or a small business. There are only so many hours in the day and resources are most likely not unlimited. I think having Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are time traps. Everyone says, follow me on Faceboook and and Twitter! But how many companies are really doing things on either that’s producing business? Very few. And it’s mostly big brands that can pay people to just monitor their presence on those properties. Until you can afford to do that, put all of your money towards getting traffic to your website.

Have you tried any of these tips? What was your experience? Let’s chat in the comment section below.

5 thoughts on “The Quest for Qualified Traffic Starts With the Fundamentals of SEO”

  1. Hi Mark,

    I read through your list and found myself in agreement with most of the points you made, although I feel differently on the Facebook/Twitter question. For what it's worth I found this post via you Twitter account…

    I'd like to suggest that readers make that extra effort and create at least one video for their site. Youtube is today the 2nd most popular search engine. Having nothing there basically means you've completely abandoned the space to your competition. Furthermore as of early in 2009 there's evidence that Google's algorithm actually grants a bonus to pages that have “engagement objects” such as video on them.

    I know that most people feel video is a complex and expensive undertaking but this is no longer true. Creating online video is EASY and can be done for FREE – more about that here:

    All the best,

  2. Mike – Thanks for commenting.

    Although Twitter pointed you to this post, I still think it's more miss than hit. There are a whole lot of people talking on Twitter, but how many people are listening?

    Completely agree that when time and resources are at a real premium YouTube is a great investment. I always challenge clients to make video a large part of their content strategy. The numbers of videos viewed per day just can't be ignored.

  3. Hi Mark,

    The choice of whether to listen or speak is entirely up to each and every one of us.

    My grandfather, a professional diplomat with decades of experience, always said – “There's a reason God gave you 2 ears & only one mouth”. Over the years that I've ben involved in marketing I've discovered that whatever the platform or situation I get a much better response when I bother to follow my grandpa's advice and really LISTEN to what the other side has to say.

    There are a number of reasons this is good advice:
    1. We tend to prefer people whom we feel are attentive to our needs.
    2. When you listen you're gathering intel. When you speak you're giving it away.
    3. Nobody enjoys a blabber-mouth.

    I guess there's nothing really new about online marketing in terms of the human dynamics. The only thing that's changed and evolved is the platform.



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