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The inspiration for this post came from a great piece written by Jennifer Matt in WhatTheyThink in which she talks about not spending any money on building your web-to-print portal before you’ve given some thought to how you’re going to drive traffic to your site. Jennifer’s article suggests two ways to do this - build it using “online advertising dollars” or have a “great SEO strategy”.
Incidentally, this is how we will be splitting this post up into two different parts: online advertising dollars and a great SEO strategy. Before we get into that though, you need to ensure that your site is ready to be found in the search engines.
You must optimize your site for performance in the search engine results pages (SERPs) in order to stand a chance of bringing any kind of organic traffic to your site. Think of this almost like laying the foundations.
Your site needs to be useful to your specific audience. So, you need to ensure that the content on there is informative and that it answers your audience’s questions and serves their needs. Whether this is about your products or your services, the content needs to be quality, concise, unique and to the point.
You will also need to have an idea of how to carry out keyword research. For this it would be ideal to have access to a tool such as Ahrefs or SEMrush. Both are great tools that will help you in your online journey as well as with keyword research. This 10-minute video from Ahrefs on YouTube about how to do keyword research is great.
For example, you may want to optimize your site for the keyword “business card printing”. According to Ahrefs (the tool we use) this keyword averages 14,000 searches a month in the US, 4,700 in the UK but globally it’s searched, on average, around 27,000 times a month. It’s also got a ‘hard’ keyword difficulty which is basically how hard or easy it is to rank for this keyword in Google.
Whether you have a specific page on your website about printing business cards or if your whole site is about printing them, it needs to be clear to the search engines that that’s what your site is about. Your content mustn’t force the keyword or variations of it. Try to keep it all as natural sounding as possible because Google understands natural language now. Their Natural Language Processing uses machine learning to reveal the word structure and meaning of text.
To add to this, another reason not to ‘keyword stuff’, Google have just released BERT. This stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. In short, it helps Google to better discern the context of words in search queries so not only are they understanding the meaning to text, they now also understand it in context.
Title tags and meta descriptions are also essential when it comes to ensuring your site is correctly optimized. Meta descriptions less so than title tags as Google often generates its own based off the content on your page but still, it’s better to know about both.
A title tag is a HTML element on a page that specifies the title of that page and they are the clickable headlines that you see listed in the search engines for a given result. They’re important for the usability of your site, SEO and also social sharing. There is an optimal length for a title tag which is usually around 50-60 characters. There is no exact character limit for this as characters can vary in width and Google’s display titles max out at around 600 pixels at the moment.
A basic example of a title tag for a page you’re trying to optimize for the keyword we used earlier, “business card printing” would look like this:
The pipe in the middle of it is called the separator. You don’t have to use the straight line for this, there are a bunch of different things you can use, there is no right or wrong, it’s pretty much down to personal taste and you could use any of the following: //, -, /, : or any other symbols as long as they are relevant to the title of the page. There are some examples in the screenshot below.
Things to consider not using though are capital letters, specifically all caps. They’re not great from a user point of view as it could be hard for search visitors to read them, but you will also be affected by way of character limits because wide capital letters like ‘M’ or ‘W’ take up more space.
You can also get a bit more specific with your title tags, too. Adding in words like ‘online’ or ‘your local area’ can make the title more specific to a particular audience. This may mean a smaller audience than targeting the broader keyword, but it could mean more leads as it’s a more specific search term.
A meta description is a HTML attribute that provides a brief summary of a web page. Usually, they are up to 160 characters long and is displayed in the search results under the title and can have a significant impact on click-through rates from the search engine to your page.
As was mentioned at the start of this section, sometimes it’s okay to not write a meta description. Often, the search engines will scrape a web page and generate its own meta description from the content that is on the page. However, there’s a general rule of thumb that you should consider when deciding whether or not to write a meta description:
The reason for this is because, when a search engine pulls together a meta description, they always display the keywords and surrounding phrases that the user has searched for. If you decide to write a description for a page like this, you could actually detract from the relevance that the search engines make, depending on the query.
The only caveat to choosing not to add a meta description is that on social media sites like Facebook commonly use a page’s meta description as the description that appears when the page is shared on their sites so if you have no meta description, they will likely just use the first text that they can find on your page which could result in a bad user experience for people who come across your content on social media.
All in all, title tags and meta descriptions are an important part of the foundations of your website content and not only do they help the search engines to understand your site and content but also, they help contribute to a positive user experience on your site.
Now we’re into the first of the paid methods of bringing traffic to your site. If you don’t have a marketing budget, then feel free to skip over this section. If you do have a marketing budget, then here’s one way you can set about spending it.
A pay per click campaign can be run through Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising. If you’re wondering what pay per click is, it’s essentially where you pay to appear at the top of the SERPs and pay for every click on your website. There’s a lot more to it than that but in its most basic form, that’s PPC.
Providing you set your PPC campaign up right, you will literally see traffic coming into your site within a matter of hours, if not sooner.
Before we get into some data, here’s a heads-up as to what you’re going to be reading:
Now that we have covered that, here is what you could expect to see, based off data from Google Keyword Planner, a free Google Ads tool you can use to search for keywords and see how they might perform:
So, in short this means that, on average the most you could expect to pay per click is £12 and the lowest is £2.25, based off historical data from other people who have bid on the same keyword. It’s obviously a highly competitive keyword.
You can see the data in the screenshot below .
With the ‘print business cards online’ keyword, you can expect to pay £3.87 as a minimum per click and £12.31 as a maximum per click. You can see the data in the screenshot below.
It’s worth noting that the average monthly searches number is just a guide. The numbers you see are calculated as a rounded annual average from ad keywords and their close variants that were also searched. For example, the data for ‘business card printing’ above showing at 27,000 could be generated from people searching for both ‘business card printing’ and ‘business card print’.
It's also worth noting that the bid amounts will change too. It’s a guide and should be used as such.
There is still a fair amount of doubt about the effectiveness of social media to drive sales but in my own experience, if you have a clear strategy in place and you’re consistent with what you do, you will eventually start to see the benefit of managing your social media correctly.
To give you an example, at the start of last year the marketing team here at Tharstern decided to start building a presence on Facebook and Instagram, two platforms that we weren’t yet using to their full potential. We put an inclusive plan in place for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and as a result of that in the 21 months from the start of 2018 to the end of September this year, we have had over 2,800 visitors to the site from all four of those social media channels.
Bearing in mind that we’re a B2B company, that’s not bad at all, and a B2C company would have seen much higher visitor numbers than that. So, this is definitely one of the things you should try out for your website.
You should also consider running paid ads across all of the social media platforms that you’re using to promote your site.
The ‘big four’ if you will: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, all offer paid ads. Each has their own unique element that can help you to maximize your reach on their platform so I will talk a little bit about each one and the things they offer.
If you have the ability to be very visual in your advertising, then Instagram could be perfect for you. There’s plenty of options for advertising on there too. Stories ads would be a great place to start. There are 500 million Instagram accounts that use Instagram Stories every day and 1/3 of the most viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses.
have over the other ad types on Instagram is that they make full use of the mobile screen. They’re bigger than the other ad options offered on the platform, so they offer a big, distraction-free opportunity to get your message in front of potential customers. Read more about stories ads on Instagram here.
One good thing about LinkedIn ads is that they’re super targeted and you can get really granular with the criteria. based on the location, education, interests and job experience of your target audience so you can really get down to the important details. Once you’ve done that, you can reach these contacts:
You can read more about LinkedIn Ads here.
Twitter ads are a great way to get your business in front of potential customers and you have plenty of different options available to you. Tweet engagements mean that you can maximize the engagement of your tweets; you can promote videos and GIFs, you can target new followers, you can get website clicks and conversion and much more.
The other option you have with Twitter is called ‘Promote Mode’. This is Twitter’s first subscription ads product. Essentially, this is an ‘always on’ mode that your profile, helping you to steadily attract more followers and an additional reach for a flat fee every month.
There are some rather questionable reports out there about this feature though so tread carefully. This review from Buffer wouldn’t really convince me to go ahead with the new platform. They base their decision of not continuing with ‘Promote Mode’ on the following:
Whether or not you go down this route is up to you, but my experience tells me that you would see more benefit from setting up your own campaign on Twitter and doing it all yourself.
As Facebook say on their ads page, you really don’t have to be an expert to start advertising your products or services on Facebook. There are more than 2 billion people who currently use Facebook and over 1.6 billion people worldwide are connected to a small business on Facebook, so it’s safe to say that there’s almost certainly an audience that you will be able to target.
When creating an ad, you begin by selecting your objective.
There are a number of different choices of objective that you can choose from at this point and here are some that you should consider:
Even right at the start of the process, you are able to get with Facebook Ads. Once you have chosen your objective, there are plenty more customization options when creating your Facebook ad. This page from Facebook does a really good job of running you through the process.
So, that’s part 1 of this post complete. In part 2, we will run through more ways that you can drive traffic to your web-to-print site so stay tuned for the final part to this.