There are many parts to setting up a profitable online business. Thanks to online platforms like WordPress and Shopify, most of the design and build aspects are mostly drag and drop.
If you aren’t very good at Photoshop you can use hundreds of picture libraries to buy images or hire someone to take pictures of your products. Can’t write awesome content? No problem, visit any number of freelancing platforms to hire very affordable content writers.
For not a lot of money you can build a strong and sleek online presence for your business that is ready to be unleashed to the masses. Once you’re done with the design and content, all that’s left to do is increase targeted traffic to your website.
And this is where most businesses fail miserably.
Most have a great product or service but they just can’t get enough traffic to generate revenue to survive. A CB Insights study on 156 failed startup post-mortems clearly indicates that many businesses offered great products or services yet failed because of poor customer acquisition strategies.
Did you know that there were apps even before Uber that offered a similar service but failed? Their reason for failure was not because of their product (which quite obviously was great, just look at Uber) but due to their poor customer acquisition strategy.
You don’t have a traffic problem
How many times have you said or heard someone say:
“If I could get more people to my website I would make so much more money.”
If you think you have a traffic problem – then you quite simply don’t understand traffic. Of all the things you can do to run an online business, increasing targeted traffic to your website is probably one of the easiest tasks.
Whenever I need traffic I simply head to any of the following shops that sells traffic:
- My email list
The list goes on…
All the sites above and more are online shops selling traffic. You can create an account at any of the platforms, run an advert and get targeted traffic to your website fast.
Here’s eTroro trying to get me to their website with this cool advert:
Now here’s 4 different email automation tools doing the same on Google:
Can’t afford to buy traffic? No problem, all of the above sites also allow you to promote your business for free with organic posting or SEO. This works well if you’re trying to increase traffic to your blogs.
Again, you don’t have a traffic problem, traffic can be found everywhere. Your problem is knowing how to utilize that traffic to grow your business.
Every business must have at least 3 traffic sources.
If at this moment in time, you do not have at least 3 traffic sources sending you business leads and sales, you’re standing on thin ice.
Placing all your eggs in one basket is not a smart move as all it takes is one Google update or Facebook algorithm update to change rankings dramatically. For example, in 2015 Facebook updated their posting algorithm which caused business pages to lose as much as 80% of their organic reach overnight.
Google runs algo updates like clockwork, and Mobilegeddon alone caused many businesses to lose as much as 35% of mobile traffic overnight:
What would happen if your business lost half of its traffic overnight? Do you have a backup in place?
To stop this from happening to your business, you should always have at least 3 different traffic sources in your arsenal to stay on the safe side and to accelerate growth. Here’s how you ought to view them.
- The Cash Cow
The “Cash Cow” is the name we’re giving to whatever is currently your most reliable, go-to traffic source.
Whenever you need to make sales or acquire new leads, this is the traffic source you turn to. It’s the traffic source you’ve used for at least a few months and it’s by far the most profitable traffic source you have.
You typically aren’t required to put too much effort into your Cash Cow, as you’ve already scaled it (or you should have) and know how much it returns each month.
For most small businesses their cash cow is typically:
- Word of mouth/ referral
- Email marketing
- Passing traffic (if you have a physical location)
- Some form of paid search on a single ad network (Google or Facebook typically)
For example, I manage an online food delivery service and my number one sales channel is email marketing. My email list, which is my cash cow, was slowly built over time from customer orders, inquiries, social media opt-ins and blog posts subscribers.
I have 3 active email lists that grow by about 40 new sign ups per week:
Every Tuesday at 10:30am I’ll send my lists a newsletter selling my products and every email blast generates me sales.
My email list is basically a license to print money.
Here’s a 24-hour period of traffic from my email list versus Facebook ads:
Within 24 hours I received a 24.73%+ conversion rate from my weekly email. Unfortunately my Facebook ads aren’t doing nearly as well (don’t worry, I’ll get to them very soon).
Email marketing is my Cash Cow, and every month my list increases and so do my sales:
The big jump in February 2016 was because I merged two different mailing systems I was using together.But you can clearly see that each month my list grows.
Sadly, for most businesses this is where their traffic sources stop. They have something that works with little effort but they don’t make a conscious effort to branch out.
Don’t be satisfied with a single traffic source, instead embrace your growth mindset and push your business further.
If I’ve just described your business traffic model or you want to obtain the growth mindset, then keep on reading.
Before I get to the other 2 types of traffic sources, I strongly advise to have your Cash Cow traffic source be something you’re in complete control of.
For online businesses, I suggest an email list because no one can take that away from you. For offline businesses, word of mouth or passing traffic are your best bet because, like an email list, there’s little risk of these being taken away. And customer satisfaction is the key to this.
It’s not advisable to rely on organic search or paid ads for your Cash Cow because then you are at the whim of Google or Facebook. If either one changes an algorithm, increases ad costs or bans you from using your platform, your business will be crippled.
Aim for your Cash Cow to be the source you have the most control over. I learned the hard way, after having been victim to a Google update in the past.
Below is a screenshot of one my websites that got hit with a Google penalty, which led two of my highest ranking pages to drop several pages in the searches, losing 26% of traffic overnight:
Within the space of a few hours, my business’s sales revenue was cut by approximately 40%, and there was nothing I could do.
I was luckily able to recover from this after diagnosing the problem, but it took two months and cost me thousands of dollars in revenue. You only need to do a quick Google search to see other business owners who lost over 90% of their traffic because of an algorithm change.
Now onto the other two traffic tiers.
- The Wannabe
I always advise having a second traffic source that you spend a considerably more time on than your Cash Cow. The Wannabe is not as profitable as your Cash Cow but it does bring some leads and customers each week.
Your objective with this traffic source is to find out where you’re going wrong and how you can further optimize it to become your new #1 traffic source, or a good stand in replacement.
The Wannabe traffic source is quite often:
As you can see from my Google Analytics above, my Wannabe traffic source is Facebook ads.
I know this source is profitable for my business based on current results (and competitor research), but it’s just not bringing me the amount of sales to keep my business alive if the customers on my mailing list decided to unsubscribe.
Finding success on Facebook could potentially help my business to grow much faster.
If we take at a look at a 30-day period of Facebook traffic for my business, you can see I’ve managed to convert 1.41% of all traffic for the month of April:
52 sales isn’t bad over a 30-day period but that’s not going to keep my business afloat should something happen to my Cash Cow.
My email list has been scaled and is fully optimized to bring in new leads — it runs for the most part on autopilot, allowing me to focus my attention on Facebook.
As I’m generating sales already, I know Facebook is profitable for my business, I just need to find out what’s holding me back to grow this channel.
So how do we improve your Wannabe traffic source and increase traffic to your website?
When using paid ads there are several variables that affect your success, and I’ve found one of the biggest factors that most people face is serving ad content to the right audience.
I spend large parts of my working days segmenting my Facebook audience into different customer profiles, and testing bespoke ads to see which demographic responds best.
For example, if you’re selling women’s clothes, you may want to segment your audience based on age groups, or by location when selling a product nationwide.
For my business I have segmented my traffic sources into 3 groups, they are:
- Past website visitors
- Interests (sports and fitness pages they liked etc)
- Behaviours (affluent, high-income status, homeowners)
After setting up my conversion pixels on Facebook (here’s how), I am noticing that only my behavior target group is responding to my adverts while the other two … well, the other two are costing me money!
This kind of testing has allowed me to fine-tune my Wannabe method to reduce spend on interests, and focus more on behavioral targeting to drive website traffic to my site.
If your 2nd traffic source is a paid medium, a great place to start auditing is your audience targeting. Consider segmenting them into different buyer personas to see which group reacts best.
“But my 2nd traffic source isn’t a paid source”
Not everyone’s second traffic source will be paid search. Whether you’re using organic social media posting, blogging or email marketing as your Wannabe source, the secret to improving them is all in the metrics.
Using a Google URL builder and Google Goals (you can learn how to set them up here and here), you can track the results of all organic inbound marketing methods with ease. Using these free tools, you’ll be able to know which organic content is converting, bouncing right away or opting-in to any of your lists.
Here are some organic blogs I posted on Facebook and Twitter URL builders:
The metrics are telling me that I should invest more time on Facebook as it drives more traffic to my site, and the traffic also remains on my site longer and converts better.
Perhaps you’re not using social media but focusing on blog writing instead. Then write articles on different category topics and use URL builders to see which topics lead to more conversions and time spent on your landing and sales pages.
This is how I am tweaking my organic Wannabe traffic sources to be better.
Don’t have a 2nd traffic source to work on?
Start by looking at your competitors and see which other methods they are using to bring more traffic to their website. Are they putting greater attention on social media networks or are they using search engine marketing to drive more sales?
BuzzSumo is a great tool to see whether your rivals are using social media to drive traffic, simply enter their URL into the search and you’ll see how their content is performing on various social networks:
Here’s a quick analysis of content from Best Buy, quite clearly Facebook is working for them considering that their content is receiving tens of thousands of shares.
Also, take a look at your number one traffic source, if it’s Google Ads, both Bing and Yahoo are very similar and there’s a good probability that your business will find success there.
This is less true for social media (as you’ll find out below) as the demographics are more widely spread out compared to paid search platforms.
- The Tester
My third traffic source typically changes from week to week or month to month. Unlike #1 and #2 which remain the same, the Tester is dynamic.
Earlier this year Reddit announced the launch of their updated self service ad platform where you can start advertising for as little as $5 per day. SnapChat is also letting businesses serve ad content to their audiences.
When testing new sources, don’t feel you need to stick to only the tried and tested mediums such as paid search or SEO. The benefit of attacking unknown platforms is that because competition is low, you can often dominate the market for your industry without having to pay too much due to lack of competition.
Tester traffic sources include:
- All popular platforms (social media and paid search)
- New ad or social media networks (SnapChat, Periscope)
- Niche blogs
- Content networks
- Forum advertising
- Offline mediums
- App advertising platforms
If after a few weeks you see zero feedback from the medium you’re using, don’t be reluctant to give up and move onto the next one.
Failure is progression.
My first tester for my business was Twitter, as I was seeing okay-ish results with Facebook I figured Twitter should work for my business too, right?
I decided to give it a 4-week test and spent $101.64 on ads in a 30 day period using similar ad copies and offers as I did with Facebook:
Here were the results:
Well it turned out that Twitter’s targeting options are not as in-depth as Facebook so I could not target my niche, and their images are much smaller reducing the ‘wow factor’.
I was promoting products and promoted tweets won’t allow you to show your image fully without the user first clicking on it, and this really sucks when you’re trying to sell food!
To me this was a valuable $101 lesson that has shown me Twitter ads are most likely not that profitable for my business.
Expect a high failure rate with your Tester traffic source.
I then decided to mix things up and do my first ever guest posting spot at a popular niche blog that ties in well with my audience. I contacted them via email and asked if I could create a special piece of content for their site and they agreed.
During the past 365 it’s only gotten me 947 visitors but I’ve converted over 35 people as a direct result:
Total cost: $120.
If I only focused on my email list and never ventured to test out new inbound methods, I’d be leaving so much money on the table in sales each month, and you most certainly are if you’re not always looking for new ways to drive traffic and sales.
Don’t have time to manage 3 traffic sources?
Operating 1 traffic source can be a full-time job if you’ve not managed to scale it successfully. However, if you’re serious about growing your business you should always have at least 3 traffic sources to drive targeted traffic to your website.
To grow your business you need more customers. The more mediums you use the more customers you’ll find.
It’s really as simple as that.
Look at any successful online business and they will all have multiple traffic sources to generate more customers. They are typically:
- Email marketing/ referral
- SEO or paid search (Google, Bing Yahoo)
- Social media
Don’t have the time to do it yourself? Then hire an experienced marketer in your field who can help, it will be the best decision you ever make.
As I said at the start of this article: you do not have a traffic problem.
Your problem is not understanding how to utilize traffic to grow your business.
Businesses don’t fail because their product lacked something, they had a poor brand logo or because it took 4 days to reply to customer emails, they went broke because they didn’t find enough customers!
Look at your Google Analytics stats and see how many mediums are driving your business leads and sales. Now ask yourself when was the last time you tested out a new ad medium?
If the answer is never then you aren’t encompassing the growth mindset and may be setting yourself up for a big fall in the future.
Okay, now over to you: what are you 3 traffic sources right now and how are they performing?