In this article, I am going to take you through the steps I took to drive traffic to my website. This article will act as a cornerstone article and so will be updated periodically as new information comes to light. I will also link to supporting posts that I feel will add to the journey and it is a journey of discovery as there are many pieces to the puzzle in attracting more ideal visitors to your site. This is an ongoing process that never ends and is continually evolving, so stay tuned and come back again and again to this post to unpack more detail as it unfolds. [Approximate time to read 30 minutes]
Step 1: Choose Fast Hosting
Google and Bing have both made page speed a ranking factor as such, it is important to make sure pages on your site load quickly. As well as being a ranking factor page speed is also crucial in a world where people have a low attention span and little patience. According to a number of public opinion polls, 53% of internet users will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to fully render (dotcom-tools.com). There are a number of methods you can use to make your pages load faster such as, reduce HTTP requests, compress images, use lazy loading, reduce render-blocking scripts, minify JS, HTML and CSS files, etc… That said there is only so much you can do with a slow server, hence the need to make sure you get your hosting right from the start.
It can be quite tricky to find the best host for your particular situation and can take a bit of trial and error before you find something suitable. Luckily a lot of hosting companies are aware of this and offer free trial periods for you to test the water before committing. Things to consider before selecting your hosting:
Server Speed – Is probably one of the most important factors. It has been my experience that you can’t really tell how fast your site will load looking at the server spec. You need to read the reviews and dip your toes in and test with a single site and see how it performs, before migrating the rest of your sites across, if you have more than one. The tech that really makes a site load fast comes down to using server-side caching like Varnish, Memcached, Rails, NGINX cache etc…
Hosting Support – What type of support can you expect to get (troubleshooting ticket system, live chat, request a call, email), how long will you have to wait for a response and availability (24/7/365 support). It has been my experience that the live chat tends to be the quickest and very few if any provide phone support unless to answer basic configuration questions. Phone tends to be more for sales and billing.
Hosting Security – Provide security solutions such as ModSecurity (firewall), SFTP, Jail hosted sites to prevent infected sites spreading, daily backups (server & offsite), realtime monitoring, managed security, offers latest PHP and MySQL versions addressing any security vulnerabilities, etc…
Scalability – Being able to scale seamlessly to meet traffic surges, site growth, able to add more client sites without having to move, increase server CPU and RAM as demand grows. Cloud hosting is best for this configuration as is very flexible and sits on giant public clouds like Amazon Web Services, DigitalOcean, GoogleCloud, VULTR, Microsofts Azure, etc…
Managed Service – Depending on your technical expertise a managed service can save you a lot of time and frustration, as the managed service will make sure your server is optimally configured for your load and any security issues addressed, software patches, backups are taken care of as well.
Bandwidth & Storage – Before settling on a hosting package you need to have an idea of the sort of traffic (visitors to your site) you can expect and how much space you will need on the server for the site. For example, if you are going to host a simple hobby site then shared hosting will most likely be fine, however, if you are hosting a business site or eCommerce and you are expecting a lot of traffic from your promotions then a dedicated or cloud-based server would be more appropriate.
Server Types – Starting with your entry-level Shared Hosting at the cheaper end, where you are sharing your server’s resources with loads of other sites; (VPS) Virtual Private Servers in the next tear up is a virtual machine running on a box providing better performance than shared; next is the Dedicated Servers where you have a server to yourself and finally you have Cloud Hosting that offers the ability to seamlessly scale as your business grows.
Unlimited Offers – This is more of a sales tactic than anything. If the package offers unlimited storage and bandwidth for very little, then there may be a tradeoff somewhere such as, server performance throttled or have a usage level limit.
Avoid Lock-in – Make sure you have full control over your site and that it can be moved should the hosting not work out. Choose an opensource CMS like WordPress or Joomla, that you can backup to your computer and move to another host.
Own Your Domain – As with avoiding a lock-in scenario, by owning your own domain and keeping it separate for the hosting you can just point the domain to a different server when it comes to changing. It also eliminates the chances of your site being hijacked, which can happen when your developer who set it up is not communicating with you and you don’t have access to your domain to point to your sites new location.
Server Technology – This refers to what applications the server is compatible with. The most popular server technology is PHP based running on Debian with an Apache webserver. This set up is compatible with web applications such as WordPress, Joomla, OpenCart, Magento, Drupal, etc… The control panel tends to be cPanel & WHM being the industry standard configuration. The other server technology is Microsoft based (ASP.NET), which has over the years lost a lot of ground to Apache. With Microsoft, the setup looks like this; IIS (Microsoft Internet Information Services) version 7 (minimum spec) running on MS Windows Server 2008 (minimum spec). At the time of writing the latest MS Windows server is 2019. Microsoft compatible applications would be Umbraco CMS, DotNetNuke (DNN), Kentico, Sitefinity, mojoPortal, etc…
I had been hosting with Resellers Panel for about 8 years and had tried in the past to move server only to get stung. I had an attempt at moving to a VPS at a much lower cost than my then-current hosting. This proved to be a mistake but luckily I had not left my old hosting so just moved my sites back. The mistake I made was not comparing apples with apples and the new VPS hosting that I went over to was not managed (hence was cheaper) so I had to do everything myself and was a lower spec than what I was on. Also, I discovered that a dedicated server is going to be more capable of running more sites than a similar spec VPS configuration. On the plus side I had not fully committed and only moved a select few sites that did not get a lot of traffic so could be sacrificed if things went wrong.
Towards the end of 2019, I decided to try again and move to a faster server. In my due diligence, I looked at a number of hosting companies like A2, Siteground and Cloudways using the above points of consideration. I settled on Cloudways and took up their trial offer to test how fast their server was. You can see my results below on Pingdom.
Old Server Speed Test Score: 73
Cloudways Speed Test 99 Score
The video shows me undertaking a raw speed test in real-time before any site speed adjustments were made apart from using caching. The results are a bit different from the above as they were taken after I had made my site live and had made some site speed adjustments like combining files to reduce HTTP requests and compressing images. I plan on creating a tutorial on how to make your site pages load faster however, what this video does show is the difference a fast server can make with few adjustments.
Don’t take my word for it, see what others have to say about moving to Cloudways Cloud Managed Hosting. Go to twitter.com/search and type in the search moving to Cloudways hosting you will then get to see a mix of positive and some negative experiences. You will see that many note the speed improvement after moving to Cloudways.
You can also visit https://www.hostreview.com/awards/ to see how your favourite hosting company is ranked every month by the HostReview Team based on a number of factors (service quality, package diversity, customer support, overall performance and new products). What you will notice is that At least 3 of Cloudways partners DigitalOcean, GoogleCloud and Amazon’s AWS, are voted in the top 10 for best Cloud Hosting with GoogleCloud and AWS appearing in first place on a number of occasions. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was awarded the best Cloud Service Provider 2019 while GoogleCloud came second and DigitalOcean (the server I use) came 7th. Cloudways acts as a middle man providing access to some of the top Cloud Hosting servers in the World offering a fully managed service so you don’t have to deal with all the technical configurations that come with running a server such as security, server load balancing, updating software, providing patches to secure vulnerabilities, etc…
Step 2: Add Content
The most important action you can take to drive traffic and attract more targeted visitors to your site is to become a content creator. Online content is king and if your content solves a problem or offers entertainment value then people will have a reason to come to your site and benefit from your know-how. Content can be the written word, images, video (YouTube, Vimeo, etc…) or even podcasts streamed from podcast platforms like SoundCloud or Buzzsprout to name a few.
To get maximum traction via organic search you will need to create blog posts of around 3000 words, especially if you like me are in a highly competitive market and you want to get your articles noticed on page one. This is because the more words are in the article the more opportunities there are for your targeted keywords to come up and for the search engine to index them, which creates more chances of you coming up the rankings when people search for keywords that appear in your text. You will also note that if you do a Google search on the ideal word count for a blog post you will get around 1600 words or 7min, which apparently is the average time a person will spend reading a post according to buffer.com and the recommended minimum is around 500 words. My personal take on this is it depends on your niche if there is lots of competition then the longer posts will do better for you. You can also mix and match long posts with shorter ones.
You should aim to publish around 3 to 4 posts a week at 500 to 1600 words and 1 post a week for the longer 3000+ words given they will take longer to write. The longer posts are also great for tutorials which are long anyway. To make your posts more interesting it is a good idea to intersperse the text with images and video content. Also writing posts that are going to stay relevant well into the future ensures the longevity of the post (evergreen credentials). Evergreen posts give you more opportunity to bring in an income via the links, products/services you are promoting.
It is possible to drip feed posts by post-dating them ahead of time. This way you can write several posts when you have the time and have them published one at a time in spaced out intervals freeing you to write more content.
Steps to Drip Feeding:
- Add a new post and content
- Click on the edit link next to Publish Immediately (right column)
- Select a future date – month via a drop-down, then a day, year & time
- Click on OK, Publish button changes to Schedule Click on Schedule to schedule post to be published at a future date
Drip Feeding Posts
Don’t be overly concerned if your article is too long as it does not matter if your visitors don’t read it all just that they are able to find what they are after in the article. You can make this easy on your readers by adding a table of contents just after the opening paragraph so they can quickly go to that part of the article that addresses their immediate need. By creating long and in-depth articles your visitors are more likely to bookmark them and use them as a reference source when conducting research and so may return several times to the same article, each time taking something new away with them.
If you are not good at coding HTML you can use the following plugin Easy Table of Contents to add a table of content to your articles automatically. The plugin offers full customizability so you can have the table of contents display as you like.
There are platforms like iWriter and Scripted where you can hire a freelance writer to do the writing for you if you are pressed for time. Please see my post on Guest Blogging where I write more on this.
Step 3: Write Blog Posts That Convert
Once you know what you want to write your post on you need to be aware that blogging is not like writing a post on Facebook, or any other social media platform, there is an optimal structure to writing to get maximum traction on search, drive traffic to your site and make a sale/convert.
Steps to Writing a Blog Post:
1.Identify your Audience?
2.What is Your Key Takeaway?
4.Create an Outline
5.Write an Introduction
6.Write the Body of the article
7.Write the Conclusion
8.Link to Additional Resources within the Post
9.Finalize the Title
10.Choose a Call To Action (What do you want your visitor to do – download an ebook, signup to a newsletter, etc…)
11.Copy & Paste Blog Post into WordPress (Where typed up in a Third-party programme like Word)
13.Choose an Image – can be more than one depending on the length of the article
14.Optimise for Search (SEO)
The above steps are courtesy of hubspot.com
There are also 6 blogging templates that you can use depending on the format of the article, some may be a better fit than others.
1.List Based Post – One of the most popular and easy to read blog formats – should be logically organised.
2.The “What Is” Post – Sets out to answer a question readers/visitors just need an answer to. May appear in Google’s featured snippet when answering the question searched for.
3.The Newsjacking Blog Post Template – Is the practice of benefitting on the popularity of a news story to magnify your sales and marketing success.
4.The Infographic Post – Is a collection of imagery, charts and text that gives an easy to understand overview of a subject.
5.The “How-To” Post Template – Sets out to teach/instruct the reader on how to do something / solve a problem.
6.The Pillar Page Post – Is the foundation on which a subject cluster is built. Covering all aspects of the subject on a single post with space for more detailed reporting, via in-depth cluster blog posts backlinking to the pillar page post. For those of you who are familiar with Yoast SEO plugin, this is the same as the Cornerstone page post.
You can download the blog post templates at offers.hubspot.com/blog-post-templates
Step 4: Optimise for Search to Drive Traffic
To aid you in conducting your keyword research and to improve your On-Page SEO I suggest trying these Chrome Extensions to get you started:
Keyword Surfer – Allows you to analyse Google search results on the results page. Provides a list of similar keywords with search volume, backlinks and visibility correlations.
Keywords Everywhere – Provides data on keyword search volume, CPC (Cost Per Click) and competition for 15+ sites. Shows related keywords and what people are also searching for. Is no longer free – works on a credit system.
SEO Minion – Helps you with On-Page SEO analysis, check for broken links, SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Preview and more.
To install the Chrome extensions:
- Click on the 3 dots top right corner
- Select More Tools from the menu and choose extensions
- On the Extensions page click on the burger menu top left corner and at the bottom of the menu click on “Open Chrome in Web Store” – will open Chrome Web Store in a new window.
- You can then type in the search “Name of Extension – as listed above”
- You will then see the results to your right
- Click on the blue button Add to Chrome
- When prompted select add extension – will then install
Once you have installed the Chrome extensions you will notice some extra search analytics when you perform a search on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) page. The analytics show the volume of searches per month being performed, indicating the level of interest in that particular topic.
My original title for this post was “How to Attract More Visitors to Your Site” but then when I conducted some keyword research I discovered that no one was searching for this topic. Instead, they were looking for how to increase or drive traffic to your website, this is essentially the same thing just phrased differently, but the search difference is huge – 0 search volume for the former and 1130 per month for the latter. So to fully capitalise on this research I changed the title to “How to Drive Traffic to Your Website” and added the new keyword/s to the article organically so the article reads naturally. It is important to keep in mind that humans will be reading the post so you want to write for humans first and bots second.
Although optimising for search comes up as step 14 according to Hubspot, I would be inclined to do the research before commencing writing or at the early stages, as you want to be able to insert the focus keyword/phrase at strategic points throughout the article and have it come across naturally. You can always tweak the keywords as the article develops.
You want to pick 4 keywords or phrases with one of them being the main focus keyword and the others acting as supporting keywords being a combination of synonyms and related variants. Using this article as an example I have chosen drive traffic as the focus keyword and the supporting keywords as organic search (related variant), visitors and readers where readers act’s as a synonym. The search engine bots should pick up on this and use this information to better understand what the article is about and it’s structure. The focus keyword should also be unique and not used in any other articles, otherwise may come across as duplicate content.
Where there is lots of competition for your keywords it is advisable to target long-tail keywords (2 to 6 words), especially when the top ranking sites have a high Domain Authority (Search Engine Ranking Score) and you don’t.
To be SEO friendly there should only be one H1 tag to a page or post (by default on WordPress all page and post titles are an H1 tag), as this is reserved for the Title. You can have as many H2 – H6 tags as you want for the subheadings.
When adding your keywords/phrase, needs to be in the article title and slug (preferably near the front of the title), should also come up in the first paragraph as this is where your subject should be clearly defined, scattered throughout remaining paragraphs, but not too much as to look spammy, in some of the subheadings, in the meta description and finally in the conclusion and within the Alt text for all or at least one of the images.
Since WordPress does not come with built-in metadata fields to aid your SEO, I would suggest installing an SEO plugin like Yoast, or SEOPress, as they will be able to guide you and provide on-page analysis. If you would like to explore further SEO tools to use to improve your sites SEO I suggest reading this article on what-tools-can-i-use-to-improve-my-seo.
Step 5: Place Content Front & Centre
What this means is, place your posts/articles on the homepage to pull the visitors in and show them there is content of interest to be read here. Just this act alone will increase the time visitors spend on your site and reduce your bounce rate (“Google Analytics defines this as the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server“). An excellent bounce rate score is in the range of 26 to 40% while average would be between 41 and 55% and higher than average 56 to 70%.
A high bounce rate indicates that someone has landed on your page looked around briefly then left. This could be because they did not find what they were looking for on landing on your site. One way to reduce this from happening too often is to make your meta description very clear and concise so visitors know what to expect after clicking on the link in the search results page.
Note this is a snapshot of my site after I removed my static homepage and replaced it with my blog posts. This simple act caused my bounce rate to improve by 28.92 % and visitors to stay on my site for 9 minutes and 34 seconds on average, a 454.56 % improvement on the previous month.
Step 6: Promote Your Content to Drive Traffic
Congratulations you have now got your post published, now what? The adage, “build it and they will come” unfortunately, does not apply when it comes to online marketing. To drive traffic to your site and get more visitors you need not only create content that people want to share, but also promote the material via various methods such as:
Write content that people will want to share – You can do this by creating content that takes away a pain/solves a problem or makes people feel good (entertainment). In-depth articles will be more likely shared than superficial ones that state the obvious and provide little quality.
Email Newsletter – Sending out an email with your latest content to your subscription list, encouraging them to read your content and click on the CTA (Call to Action).
Email Signature – You can add an email signature to the bottom of your business email with a link to your website and a CTA button to a sales/blog post to drive traffic and hopefully convert.
Quid Pro Quo – Contact people or organisations you mention in your post to post a backlink to the article.
Guest Blogging – Write articles in your niche on other blog sites that accept guest bloggers. You should be able to add a link either in the article or within your author bio back to your site.
Internal Linking – Adding backlinks to your cornerstone/pillar content from supporting posts. This tells the search engine what the important articles are and the relationship between the articles.
Paying for Backlinks – If you don’t have the time to create backlinks there are companies out there that offer a backlinking service. For quality backlinks, you can expect to pay a premium as it takes a lot of effort and time. If the service is cheap this is a red flag and possibly indicates spammy links which can do you more harm. Ideally, you would want backlinks from sites with a Domain Authority of 20 and above.
Sharing posts on Social Media for backlinks – Posting your blog posts to your social media timelines on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc… with links to the full article on your site.
Join Groups – Become a member of groups that are aligned with your niche on platforms like Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, Google+ Communities, Reddit Discussions etc….You can engage with fellow members who share your interests. In these groups, you can help members with their problems and share links to your articles for more info on your website. remember to read the rules of the group before sharing content, as some don’t like self-promotion, so you need to be mindful of this.
Add Your Site to Business Directories – There are loads of business directories out there paid for and free such as Yell, Bing Places, Scoot, Free Index etc… These platforms offer an opportunity to create a business profile with a link back to your website – more link juice, more opportunities to get found.
Q&A Sites – These include sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers where you can add your bit to topics you are familiar with and in some cases leave a link to your site for supporting evidence.
Social Bookmarking – These are platforms that encourage you to share, edit, annotate web documents via an online bookmarking system. Is another way of increasing your brand awareness and helping people to find your site. Examples of bookmarking sites are Dribbble and Behance (aimed at designers) and StumbleUpon (for everyone).
Commenting – You can leave comments on relevant blog posts, remembering to add valued comments that leave a lasting impression and help to build relationships with other bloggers. You may also be able to leave a backlink to your site.
Automate – Leveraging tools such as the IFTTT (If This Then That) platform to automate repetitive tasks like sharing blog posts on social media for backlinks.
One of the biggest factors to affect your site’s rankings is your sites Domain Authority score. The higher the score the better you will come up in search. The score is out of 100, with the top sites like Wikipedia getting a score of 93 and brand new sites starting out will get a score of 1. One of the best ways to improve on this score is to increase your backlinks hence the need to do all this promotion work. Keep in mind good quality backlinks are worth more than loads of poor quality backlinks – so quality over quantity is best.
Spend time doing research to get the best server to meet your needs. Make sure that it is fast as this can impact your SEO results. Test the water and take full advantage of the free trial period that most hosting companies offer.
Next, you want to write content that people love and want to share and to capitalise on this have a strong Call To Action (CTA) to convert and make a sale.
To drive traffic to your site you need to do some keyword research, optimise your page so is more likely to be found organically. Make the content on your site easy to find so as to reduce your bounce rate and keep visitors on longer.
Work on promoting your content so as to increase your backlinks and improve your Domain Authority (DA) score, which will help in getting your page better ranked for your keywords, also target long-tail keywords that have less competition so you have more chance getting found.
These steps are by no means exhaustive and I will be expanding on the topics covered in this post on future posts as some of these topics are so complex and intricate that I could write several posts on them. In the meantime check out Cloudways and experience fast page speed loads.