Imagine for a moment that you own a brick and mortar store somewhere. You’ve worked hard to bring visibility to your store, hired a friendly and helpful staff, and perfected your products. All day, every day, customers file through the stuffed aisles of your store, but something puzzling is happening… they’re not buying anything. You did everything necessary to get those customers to you, but your business seems destined to fail. Suddenly, you come face to face with a harsh reality – traffic isn’t everything.

While it’s often less costly, this same scenario in the online business world happens far too often. Web developers optimize tirelessly to build high traffic volume only to find their bounce rates soaring. If you’re 100% convinced that people are genuinely interested in your product or service (they should be if you’re getting that much traffic), the hard part is over. Making the most of your traffic is not difficult, but it does take a bit of patience and a whole lot of testing.

Give the Readers What They Want

Let’s get something out of the way first: in this post-panda world, spamming still kind of works, and that’s part of the problem. Google has yet to really nail down a lot of the keyword stuffing and content mills that they targeted with Panda, and some web developers are still using the same old SEO content tricks to build traffic. Sure, things are looking much better. When’s the last time you saw a webpage on the front of Google’s SERPs that had nothing but a single keyword repeated over and over again? But the new world of Internet marketing still has the same basic principle it’s always had – create value.

Valuable content (not just words, but images, videos, widgets, etc.) creates trust, which in turn inspires conversions and begins to build a brand. It’s easy to say that web developers need to be focusing on valuable content more than SEO content. But what is valuable content, really? Google’s Amit Singhal published a blog post on May 6th, 2011 discussing what webmasters should be doing to create a high quality site. Among his most important points were:

  • Content should feel like it was written by an expert or an enthusiast who knows the topic inside and out.
  • Content should be free of errors (grammatical and factual) and make sense stylistically.
  • All website content has to be original (Google is also expecting original research, not the same studies cited over and over again).
  • A website as a whole should offer substantially more value than its competition.
  • Could the content be published in a print magazine or book?

Once you have created unique and valuable content packed full of information, remember that bad monetization can do more harm than good. Website visitors are simply turned off by websites that are loaded with advertisements. If your website looks like it was built purely to get sales, your traffic will be less likely to trust you. So, instead of aggressively putting ads on every page of your site, chose the ads that make the most sense in context of the page.

Choosing the Right Products

Far too many web developers tend to grasp at advertisers. This is especially true with blog owners that simply sell their ad space to the highest bidder (especially with text links). But ask yourself one simple question – does the ad I’m putting in front of the reader make sense?

You would probably be surprised to walk into your local McDonald’s to buy a cheeseburger, only to find out that this particular location specializes only in fine Turkish rugs at discount prices. Why should this be any different online? If you have a page on your website that discusses the advantages of Clear 4G internet, how well do you think an ad for dog food is going to do? Furthermore, aim to keep advertisements in line with your content itself. Insert ads within the content where they make sense, not just in the sidebar. But if your ads are working just fine in the sidebar, don’t just move them right away. We’ll get to split testing next.

If you’re in a niche that has some tough sell products, or you’re having trouble finding the right product to fit your content, you have a few options.

Split Testing and CTAs

Split testing is the process of literally splitting different advertising techniques onto different pages and checking the click rates after a testing period. The length of the testing period depends on the amount of traffic you get on those pages. With a few hundred visitors a day, you’ll have enough data in a few days. Sites with less traffic might take a week or two. Google offers a great website optimizer for split testing.

Another good testing product is the CrazyEgg CTA heatmap. This tool shows you where your visitors are clicking on your web page. I’ve used this tool many times to test my own sites. One interesting thing I found was the amount of clicks I got on the header “About Us” link. You have no idea how tempting it was to redirect that link to an affiliate site, by the way… but something tells me that wouldn’t have turned out very well for me in the end. It’s not a free tool, but the basic plan doesn’t cost any more than your average hosting plan.

Open Up to Your Readers

It doesn’t hurt to ask your audience what they would like to see. If you’ve built a trusting relationship with your audience, they probably won’t mind if you ask them what products and services they would buy on your site. It’s certainly better to ask them than to suddenly see your inbox fill up with complaints about your new pop-ups and peel-aways that you thought they would love.

Most website visitors understand that you can’t offer a quality product for free. More often than not, ads that ask readers to personally try a product tend to do much better than a random advertisement on your sidebar. Try using anchor text like “click here to test the product yourself” to engage your visitors. It’s a pretty good feeling being asked how you feel about a change to a website as a reader, and then seeing the change happen.