Making Sure You Are Being Found by Your Target Audience - Part I (Introduction)
By Andrew Rufener
Do you have something you want to share with your target audience or potential customers? Or do you have readers you want to reach and inspire? That is great, but unfortunately these days this very often means that the audience literally has to find a “needle in the haystack”. We already discussed the basic items to watch out when setting up your website in our recent blog on How to Get Your Website Right and we discussed security related questions in our blog “Securing Your Website Isn’t that Difficult”, now let’s move on to making sure you are found.
Most of the time the first term that is uttered when a conversation heads down this path is the term SEO or “Search Engine Optimization”. While SEO is important and you should certainly make sure you understand the basics related to SEO if you care about being found, so you can decide if and how much effort to make, let’s first take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
Making sure you are found by your “target audience” starts with clearly defining this “audience”. Who are they? What are they interested in or looking for? Where and how do they generally acquire their information? Ideally you did this “homework” before you start to develop your website to ensure that your site meets the needs of your audience but as you are looking to drive (more) traffic to your site you will have to revisit these questions looking at it from a different angle.
As we are looking to increase the rate of (relevant) traffic and engagement to our site, there are a few areas that deserve consideration. We will cover these in our upcoming blogs in more detail but here is an introduction to get you started.
It should be obvious that if we are talking about engagement (how long people spend time on your site, how much they consume and if they convert to a contact or customer), the key question we would like to be answered before we make huge efforts and investments is how well we are doing and which efforts pay off and which not. This is specifically relevant as some activities lead to improvements for sure, but more often than not there is a level of experimentation and tuning involved to achieve results, so it is essential to have metrics to help justifying and directing the efforts.
While there are many different types of possible measurements for websites, for most of the users without a dedicated team or deep pockets to spend on specialized software, Google Analytics or Bing Webmaster tools are a good starting point. These tools provide you with initial insights into the number of visitors, their geographic location, used devices, the amount of time spent on your site, the pages that are being viewed, general behaviour but also key metrics related to your site performance which in return will also be one of the (many) factors affecting your ranking with search engines.
Use these tools as a starting point since they provide you a good basic set of metrics to work with and help you understand if and what measures help you increase traffic to your site.
Social media have become key platforms allowing us to share information with other users that have similar interests, form interest groups and/or access special interest groups with relative ease. Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook but also messaging services such as WhatsApp, LINE, WeChat have emerged as effective means to engage and reach out to target audiences and consequently can help drive more traffic to your site. However, while social media is an effective tool in your toolbox, it must also be used responsibly and with constraint. While social media can be very useful, it is most effective when used to communicate relevant information responsibly.
AdWords and Advertisements
Online advertisements or ad’s or AdWords are another set of tools in our toolbox that can be used to reach a broader audience and drive more traffic to your site. Advertisements are available in a range of formats and on different channels ranging from search engines such as Google and Bing search, video channels such as YouTube, social platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook but also pop-ups and banners. The “right” tool and combination of approaches will differ per product or service promoted as well as target audience, but whatever you end up selecting, make sure that you invest in a channel that does allow you to reach your target audience and provides an ability to measure responses so you can tune and adjust as needed.
AdWords are the ability to ensure that your site ends up at the top of the results displayed on a search engine. They have the advantage that they can be adjusted easily and results are measurable, allowing you to tune and test as you go along to find out the best and most effective means to drive traffic to your website.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a broad term for a range of optimization measures to ensure that search engines can effectively find and index your content. A search engine hereby 1) crawls the internet and your site for content, 2) indexes it and 3) ranks it.
Without going into details (which we will in a coming blog on this subject), it is important to understand that in order to ensure best possible results it is relevant to ensure that search engines such as Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and others can find you and can crawl your site easily. Additionally you do have the ability to guide the search engines on what to crawl and index and what not to (using a robots.txt file - more on that in our next blog).
An easy way to find if a search engine has indexed your site well is to use the “site:yourdomain” operator (see image below).
If you aren't showing up there, then some possible reasons could be:
- Your site is brand new and hasn't been crawled yet.
- Your site isn't linked to from any external websites.
- Your site's navigation makes it hard for a robot to crawl it effectively.
- Your site contains some basic code called crawler directives that is blocking search engines.
- Your site has been penalized by the search engine provider for using specific tactics
Once the content has been crawled and indexed, search engines rank sites. Therefore it is important to remember that search engines' main goal is to help users find relevant content quickly. Some examples of what affects ranging are the age and credibility of the domain, the sites performance, the level of content and how “fresh” it is, the amount of linking (to your site, from your site, within the site), content “quality”, etc.
Using the tools we introduced above, you’ll have the ability to create the best possible means to drive traffic to your website in a sustainable fashion. Note that while there are some measures which are generic and everyone should follow, most of the measures you end up taking, are specific to your content and what you are trying to achieve. In our upcoming blogs in this series we will take a deeper dive into the different domains and provide some hands-on suggestions on how to improve the return on investment of your website.
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