This article originally published on Forbes.com by Jayson DeMers, Contributor.
What To Do When Your Website Isn't Making You Any Money
Your website is your prime piece of real estate online. This means it needs to do some pretty heavy lifting when it comes to attracting targeted, qualified customers or clients.
So what happens when, despite your best efforts, your site just isn’t making you any money?
Start by taking some time to step back, putting some distance between yourself and your site, and attacking the problem logically. If you’re finding that your website just isn’t giving you the results you want, take some time to work through the following simple 3-step strategy.
Step 1: Determine if traffic is the problem
Even with excellent content and a winning conversion strategy, without traffic, your website is essentially on an island.
So, the logical first step will be to evaluate whether you’re getting sufficient traffic. Keep in mind that sufficient is, to some degree, a subjective term. Ask yourself: How much traffic do I realistically need in order to achieve my target TGT +0.23% ROI?
If, at this stage, you’ve determined that lack of traffic is the problem, begin by understanding and properly implementing the three pillars of SEO:
A solid content strategy: A content strategy forms the foundation of successful online marketing campaigns today. Critical questions to evaluate include: Am I consistently publishing new content? Is my website and content properly optimized for the search engines, or am I relying on outdated and ineffective pre-Penguin and pre-Panda strategies? Do I write about topics that my target market is searching for? For more on building a successful content strategy, see:
- How To Double Your Content Marketing ROI In 2014
- 10 Steps to Creating a Mobile-Optimized Content Marketing Strategy
- How to Build a Kickass Content Marketing Strategy
Inbound links: Inbound links are the primary signal by which Google GOOG -0.44% and Bing evaluate the quality of a page. More inbound links from trusted, authority publishers and websites can be thought of as more votes for that page. More and better votes lead to higher trust and authority, along with higher search engine rankings. But how do you get those inbound links?
In most cases, it isn’t enough to just publish content and hope that readers find it and link to it. If you don’t already have a large, established audience ADNC +2.97% of readers to help disseminate your content, you’re going to need to get proactive to distribute it. Using strategies like guest blogging, creating link-bait on your site, and getting listed in local directories and resource guides are all ways to jumpstart your link building strategy. For more on this, see 8 Ways to Build Links When Guest Blogging Isn’t Possible.
Social Media: Being active on social media has many benefits. It allows you to build and interact with your community, driving referral traffic to your website. Additionally, it’s a great way to humanize your brand, as well as build brand awareness, loyalty, and authority. Social media amplifies content distribution efforts, helping it reach more of your target audience, which, in turn, results in more inbound links to that content. Think of social media as primarily a brand builder and a content marketing amplifier.
If these elements are in good shape, it could be possible that you have an algorithmic penalty. This is unlikely if you’ve never engaged in manipulative SEO tactics in the past, but if you have, see this article: “How to Evaluate and Overhaul Your SEO Strategy.”
Step 2: Determine why your visitors aren’t buying
Perhaps your website has traffic, but it isn’t converting. Conversion is the second piece of the online marketing equation (alongside traffic). Without traffic, great conversion won’t matter; similarly, without conversion, huge amounts of traffic doesn’t matter. The two have to be in harmony to result in benefit.
There are countless reasons why visitors to your site may not be converting, but here are some of the most common ones:
- You’re attracting ‘looky-loos’. These are people who are early in the stages of the buying cycle, and who have no intention of buying. They may only be at the initial research stage, and may not even have a clear idea of what they’re looking for. Make sure you’re publishing content that will appeal to those who are ready to buy; this way, the traffic you do get to your site will be more likely to actually convert.
- You’re not attracting your target market. It’s possible that you’re attracting visitors who are more than just window-shoppers, but if they’re not in your target market, why bother? Before engaging in a content strategy, you must first define your ideal customer. For help with that, see my article 6 Steps to Decoding Your Target Audience. Who is your ideal customer? Are these the people who are coming to your site? If not, where are they ‘hanging out’ online and how can you connect with them?
- Your content isn’t encouraging action. Even the best content can fail if it doesn’t contain relevant, useful calls to action that encourage readers to convert. To remedy this, start by researching what content format works best with your audience (video, audio, text, etc.). Then, as you publish content via those channels, always remember to include compelling calls to action. For some psychology behind what drives people to action, see my article “The Four Elements of Any Action, And How to Use Them In Your Online Marketing Initiative.”
- Your website design is unprofessional or not mobile-optimized. People want to buy from businesses they trust, and a professional website design is the first and most obvious signal that you’re trustworthy. It’s also important that your landing pages are functioning properly. Business websites are often optimized for desktop monitors, but it’s common for them not to be optimized for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. If this is the case, customers trying to convert might not be able to do so. To remedy this, follow the steps outlined in my article, “How to Master Mobile SEO in 2014.”
Step 3: Continually Optimize and Test Your Strategy
Have you figured out the problem? Great; but don’t stop there. Too many business owners breathe a sign of relief once they’ve finally achieved their traffic and revenue goals, but then neglect to document how they’ve achieved this success.
Unless you document your strategies and continue to test and optimize them over the long term, you could end up right back where you started.
Some elements of your strategy moving forward should include:
- Put guidelines in place to make sure future content is properly optimized both for Google and for your readers, as well as across mobile and desktop devices
- Implement a strategic link building plan so you are continually building new inbound links to your content
- Ensure that any new content that’s added is suitable for your audience, and that it targets buyer needs
- Implement a social media strategy that will enable you to continually grow your readership and build strong social signals
- Create a list of best practices for future website revamps; this will ensure that all future landing pages are designed for optimal conversions
Your website should be making money for you. It’s that simple.
Whether that’s directly (through selling products, services or advertising), or indirectly (helping you build up your online presence, establishing you as a thought leader in your field, or growing a strong and loyal community), your website should be delivering. If it’s not, it’s time to step back and figure out what needs to happen next.
What do you think? What strategies or steps would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
For more online marketing insights, follow me on Twitter @JaysonDeMers.