Q: What tricks can I use to juice my website’s traffic?
A: Many websites face the perplexing scenario in which 20 percent of the content drives 80 percent of clicks. This can be maddening, so we turned to Skip Besthoff for help. He’s CEO of InboundWriter, a Boston-area startup that uses advanced statistics and algorithms to forecast how new content will perform. In other words, his company answers this type of question every day.
Assuming that 20 percent of a website’s content is consistently bringing in traffic, why should we even care about the rest?
If you think of any industry, an 80 percent scrap rate is very high, especially if it can be avoided. With the ophistication and technologies being developed to manage and optimize online content development, 20 percent should not be acceptable. In my view, at minimum 50 percent of your content should achieve its intended purpose of attracting clicks.
What do I need to do to get there?
There’s a three-step process to getting your content to pay off, and it starts with improving your site’s strength (i.e., how it’s structured so that it can be successfully “spidered” by search engines) and its authority (how many other quality and relevant sites link to yours, along with how long your site has been around, how often you publish new content and how much traffic it receives).
Second, you need a content strategy, and while that’s not rocket science, you must know your audience, topic areas and design metrics to measure your content.
Third—and most important—you must publish high-quality original content. It’s like eating vegetables—there’s no such thing as too much. Good content grows your authority, helps your audience and moves your numbers.
You mean there’s no magic trick or technology that will automatically boost search results?
There really isn’t. When I think about SEO, I think about getting the technical foundation right—good URL structure, sound (keyword) tagging strategy, solid site architecture—and then getting the research done to support my content efforts.
Moving beyond those basics into strategies designed to manipulate results is a questionable investment. If the search engines catch you, you can incur a penalty that can be costly to reverse.
What tools can help me determine content that will drive traffic?
Beyond Google Analytics, there are vendors that take existing data and repackage it in forms that are much more consumable and user-friendly. Parse.ly, for example, allows you to look at traffic and web metrics data in a simple interface that should make it easier to identify what’s working.
Then there are tools that mine web-based data. My company, InboundWriter, mines search and user behavior data to predict how a given content topic will perform. Another is StageRight Research, which interviews buyers and creates consolidated buyer personas, matching the right content to the right visitor at the right time to maximize conversions and outcomes.