How to Get Direct Visits to Your Website

There are are essentially five ways someone can come to your website:

  • Directly
  • Through a link (known as a referral)
  • Through a search engine such as Google or Bing
  • Through the ads you see on the internet (known as pay-per-click ads)
  • Through social media.

Direct visits are when the user enters the url of one of the pages of your website into their browser and go directly to your website.

Direct visits are the best visits. Direct traffic, the sum total of all your direct visits, is incredibly valuable. Direct visits are considered the best visits for a simple reason: user intent. The idea is, the person went to the trouble of typing in (or copying and pasting) your url; they must really want to visit your website. Therefore, a high proportion of direct traffic in your total traffic is good for your site (provided your traffic is good).

There are two types of direct visits: real direct visits and referrals posing as direct.

 

Referral Visits Posing as Direct Visits

One way you can get direct traffic, perhaps the most common way depending upon your site, is by users copying your url from somewhere – a social media post, a website, an email – and pasting it into your browser. This visit is counted as a direct visit even though it’s not. The good news is that it’s still good traffic.

 

How to Get Direct Traffic

There are two ways to get direct traffic:

  • Offline
  • Online

Offline

If your site url is somewhere offline – anywhere offline – and a user types it into their browser, this is a going to be counted as a direct visit. Here are some ways you can get direct traffic:

  • Url on a business card
  • Url on a billboard or other public ad or display
  • Url in the Yellow Pages
  • Word of mouth.

Online

It’s a lot harder to do this online. Basically, direct traffic coming from online only is going to either come from the referrals as direct traffic listed above, or through online word of mouth, i.e. branding.

Making your site well known enough so that people decide they are going to visit it is really hard. Think about whether or not you’re ever done this: entered a url you’ve never been to before because someone online told you to visit this site (without a link) or you otherwise heard about the site.

Basically, it’s much better to focus your efforts offline until your company is famous enough (or niche enough) to be famous online.

How Do People Find My Website?

There was a time when all you had to do was put up a webpage on the internet and people would find it.

However, that time is long past. As in, decades past. Then time when you can get people to come to your website without doing anything is over. In 2018, you need to attract visitors using a variety of online and offline methods. If you do not do this, you will not get any traffic, unless you have the most niche business, or you have a large, pre-existing clientele who suddenly decide they need to tell other people about your site. (Neither of these things is likely.) So

 

The Ways People Find Websites

There are only five ways people can find your website, be they potential clients, current or former clients, or total strangers:

  • Direct Traffic
  • Referrals
  • Search Engine Traffic
  • Paid Traffic
  • Social Media

That’s it. If someone does not find your website through one of these four “channels,” they are not getting to your website.

I am going to cover these five channels in separate posts, but here is a brief overview:

 

Direct Traffic

Someone types in your website url into their browser, or copies and pastes it into their browser. Direct traffic can come from:

  • typing in your site url that they saw offline
  • typing in your site url from memory
  • typing in your site url and it populates in the browser because
    • they’ve been there before
    • it’s a really popular website
  • pasting your site url from an email or a social media post.

(Email links are sometimes considered direct as well.)

 

Referred Traffic

Traffic that comes by referral comes from links on other websites. (Technically, social media traffic could be considered referred as well.) You can get traffic this way when someone

  • clicks a link to a page on your site embedded in the text of another webpage
  • clicks a link to a page on your site embedded in the text of a forum post
  • clicks a link to a page on your site embedded in the text of a comment on a site or post.

Sometimes, links sent by email (by friends, family, or spammers), are also considered referrals. But these links are more ephemeral, given that they are not available to the public and they are unlikely to generate repeat visits, except in one very specific circumstance.

 

Search Engine Traffic

Someone finds your site by using Google (or Bing) to find what they are looking for, such as “Digital Marketing Consultant Toronto.”

 

Paid Traffic

You pay for ads, in search (Google, Bing), or in social media (Facebook, Twitter), or on related sites. When a user clicks on the ad, she comes to your site. You pay for the click.

 

Social Media Traffic

A type of referred traffic, but not as permanent as a link from a website, because of how social media functions.

 

These are the only ways potential customers will ever find your website. And you can’t just rely on search traffic any more. So, what do you do with this information?

How Do I Know if My Site Has Problems

I’m sorry to say that putting a website online is not as simple as uploading it to a server and leaving it there untouched forever. Technology is constantly changing and your site will require updates. If you are using an out-of-the-box site creator, these will be handled for you. But if you are using a CMS, these will need to be done yourself.

Additionally, there could be other problems with your site, unrelated to out of date plugins or themes or code. There could be errors missed when uploading the site, or unforeseen issues that pop up.

The long and the short of it is, you need to be able to diagnose problems on your website whenever you have the time to check. How do you do that?

 

Checking for Updates

If you are using a CMS (Drupal, Joomla, WordPress), your CMS will tell you about updates when you login to your website. Even if you are never going to add new content, it is a good idea for you or your website to periodically long in to your site to see if there are updates. I’d recommend once a week, at minimum.

If you are using an out-of-the-box site creator most mandatory updates should be handled for you by the service you are using.

If you have a custom built site you will unfortunately need a webmaster on call to discover what you need updated and when. Once again, a custom site is a terrible idea.

 

Checking for Problems

There are other problems that will arise over the life of your website. Fortunately, most of them that will impact how potential customers find you can be found using Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). I did a presentation on how to set up a Search Console account in 2017. Using Search Console, you should be able to discover most problems which will affect how people find your website through search engines.

Unfortunately, for typos, you’ll just have to read your site content (or have someone else do it).

Who Visits My Site? Website Traffic

Every single time a computer visits your site, that visit is tracked in your site logs. But site logs are awful to look at; the log is a list of IP addresses and, if you have a busy site, that list can be incredibly long. So your logs are painful to read but they also only give you a recent portrait – you can’t look at your traffic over the course of the last year, or what have you, unless you’ve saved them all. And you certainly can’t segment your traffic in any way that lets you analyze it. So you need a program to do that. Fortunately, there’s Google Analytics.

There are multiple website traffic programs, but the gold standard and the one that the vast, vast majority of site owners use is Google Analytics. I have written a post about Google Analytics. Also, I have given presentations about Google Analytics specifically geared to small business owners and solopreneurs. If you do not put Google Analytics or an equivalent program on your site, you will never know who visits your site. And therefore you will not be able to effectively market your business online.

Contacts from Clients

A lot of small business owners still imagine that if they get a website online that their phone will start ringing. Though that may have been true in certain niche industries 15 years ago, it’s not longer true. Getting the traffic can be really difficult.

But in addition to getting the traffic, you need to make sure you make it easy for your visitors to contact you. So, you need to decide how you want to be contacted.  You should have all your contact information on your Contact page and in your header or your footer. But you should try to emphasize the cway you prefer to be contacted on your page. So if you want people to call you, the emphasis should be on your phone number, not your email address.

 

Email

Your business email should be on your contact page and your header or your footer. You should only make your email the primary point of contact on your landing pages if it’s an email that is checked all the time. Email is certainly the easiest way of of contacting a website, but you should be aware that you will get some spam emails once you put your email address up online.

 

Fax

Do people still use faxes? This is a good question.

If you have a business fax line, you should include your fax line on your contact page. But don’t emphasize your fax number elsewhere unless you need people to fax in something to you. (Then you need to make it clear to them that they need this.)

 

Phone

Though a lot of younger people prefer using email to contact you, many older people still prefer the phone. You should always have your phone number available to people on your contact page and your header or footer. But you should not emphasize your phone number on your landing page unless you have the ability to answer it. If you do not have the staff to answer your phone during your hours of operation, it’s best to emphasize email.

 

Webforms

Every website should have a contact form on their contact page. But you can have these webforms on any page you want visitors to contact you. There are a number of advantages of webforms over email:

  • filter out spam
  • control the information your visitor is providing you.

With a webform, you can get your visitor’s phone number and email address and other relevant information the visitor may omit from an email. Here’s mine:

 

Chat App

There are now many chat applications available where a user can chat with your staff directly when they land on your website.

The advantage is that a user is prompted to communicate with you and you can attempt to convert them immediately. But there are a number of potential disadvantages:

  • You need to staff your chat app, which may not be possible if you are a solopreneur
  • Chat bots (automate chat apps) are still easily identifiable as robots, which can be off-putting
  • If you hire a service to run your chat app, chances are they will not know your business
  • If you do have a real person (staff or service) monitoring your chat app, you should be aware that they will have to deal with spam bots and, unfortunately, the same types of people you find in internet comments sections: they’re not serious about your business and they are crass.

Do I Need a Webmaster

Or: How to Perform Maintenance on Your Website

There was a time when every person or business with a website needed a webmaster, unless you built that website yourself (i.e. you knew what you were doing).

But times have changed. You do not need a webmaster who works for you full time or even part time. Depending upon your website, you either do not need a webmaster or just need someone you can call periodically.

 

Do I Need a Webmaster?

Type of SiteDo I Need a Webmaster?
Out-of-the-box site creator (Jimdo, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, etc)No
WordpressDepends upon your time level and expertise level
Drupal or JoomlaDepends upon your time level and expertise level
Custom built site without CMSYes

If you use an out-of-the-box site creator, you should never need to employ a webmaster. If you have trouble, these companies provide support.

If you use WordPress, you can learn the basics and rarely or never need a webmaster. (I can teach you how to use wordpress.) However, if you have custom code on your site, or if you do not have the time, it is useful to have someone you can call.

The same is true if you use a more complex CMS like Drupal or Joomla: anyone can learn how to run these sites but the most custom code you have, the more likely you need someone you can call.

Finally, if you have a site without a CMS – i.e. you live in the internet dark ages – you need a webmaster unless you yourself built that site.

Ensure Your Site is Indexed

The whole point of having a website for your business is so that customers using the internet can find your business.

Customers can find your business one of a few ways:

  • ethey put your address into their browser (i.e. they already known your site address and want to go there)
  • they click on a link from another site to your site
  • they click on an ad you have paid for to your site
  • they put your business name or a keyword related to your business into a search engine.

In order for customers to find your website through the last option, your site must be in the directory of the search engines, i.e. indexed.

In order for you go get links from other sites, usually those other sites have to find you and think your site is valuable, and so your site must be indexed for this method as well.

In order for someone who has never been to your physical business to put your url into their browser, it’s a safe assumption to think that they may have already heard about you some way, so you want your site to be indexed for this reason as well.

 

How to Get Indexed

DO NOT listen to those scam emails you are going to get from various scammers, asking for money to index you. That’s not how this works. You do not have to pay to get your site indexed. Ever.

If you are using an out-of-the-box site creator, the act of publishing your site will usually get it indexed.

If you are using WordPress, you can turn indexing on or off (though this is just a suggestion).

If you are using a larger CMS, they also have options to turn indexing on or off.

If you are unsure, just ask your developer to make sure your site is indexable or, if you are feeling tech savvy, check your robots.txt file.

 

Is My Site Indexed?

Especially with brand new sites, or small sites, it’s going to take some time for your site to appear for the keywords you want it to. (Depending upon the quality of your SEO, this might never happen.)

You can check to see whether or not your site is indexed in a couple of different ways:

  • Check using google search
  • Check using Google Site Manager (formerly Webmaster Tools)

 

Check Index Using Google Search

To search to see to what extent your site is indexed, go to google.ca or google.com and type in the following: “site:yourdomain.ca” The results will show all the pages Google has indexed.

 

Check Your Site Using Site Manage

If you have a site manager account (and you should) you can check whether your site is indexed or not based upon your sitemap or just by manually “fetching as google.”

How to Create a Sitemap

Before you let the search engines index your website, you should be sure to create not one but two sitemaps. A sitemap is essentially a directory of pages on your website. However not all sitemaps are created equal: you need both a sitemap for the search engine and a sitemap for the user.

 

 

Sitemaps for Search Engines (XML)

The most important site map you need is for the “bots” which “crawl” your website: Google and the other search engines send robots around the internet indexing websites so that they can appear in the search results. When you go click on a link in google, that page has been “indexed,” i.e. put in Google’s giant directory. It makes it a lot easier for Google to index your site (put it in Google’s directory) if you provide Google your own website directory. This is called a sitemap.

Sitemaps for the search engine robots use a language called XML so these sitemaps are called “XML sitemaps.” Depending upon what type of site builder you are using, there are different ways of creating one such xml sitemap:

  • If you are using an out-of-the-box site creator, such as Jimdo, Squarespace, Weebly or Wix, the sitemap should be created for you
  • If you are using WordPress, there are lots of plugin options! Just type “plugin” into the “Add New” search feature
  • If you are using Drupal, there are lots of modules
  • If you have had your site built from scratch, you will need to pay your webmaster to do it or you can use a sitemap generator such as this one.

If you have a particularly large website, you will need sub-sitemaps (i.e. sub-directories) so that the sitemap itself isn’t too large.

Once you have an xml sitemap, this is only half the battle. Users need a sitemap too.

 

User Sitemaps

The average person does not want to read an xml sitemap. Here’s my highest level sitemap. It’s not exactly user-friendly. You should have one for your visitors. It’s unlikely many people will use this sitemap these days, as Google does such a good job of indexing, but it’s considered a basic courtesy. If you don’t have a user sitemap, all other things being equal the search engines will treat your site worse. At this point, having a user sitemap is just standard practice.

To create one,

  • Just open up your XML sitemap and make a list of all the pages.
  • Create a new webpage with this list on it
  • Link each page on your site to your list.

That’s it! You’re done. Now you have sitemaps for the indexing robots and your users. You’re one step closer to launching your website.

Launching Your Website

There are a number of steps you need to go through in order to launch your website, including building your website, uploading it to a server and ensuring that it can be “indexed” (found) by the search engines.

You can approach launching your website on a spectrum from a bare-bones approach to the most thorough approach. Let’s see how those approaches compare:

 Bare-BonesThorough
Site BuilderOut of the BoxCMS or Custom Site
DesignTemplateCustom Design
CodingNo CustomSome Custom to Lots of Custom
Domain PurchaseNo DifferenceNo Difference
HostingOut of the Box Site Builder hosts sitePurchase hosting
Installing siteOut of Box doesn't require itUpload to server
Site MapAuto-generatedCustom
IndexingBare minimum effortActively submit to search engines
TrafficWait and seeAggressively drive traffic

The short version is that you can pay a small fee to an out-of-the-box site creator to have a webpage online, where you essentially do everything yourself, you can get a blog and a small store, or you can have a large website with a store and lots of other features. Where you fall on this spectrum depends upon the needs of your business and the competition in your industry. My hope is that by reading this guide, you can figure out where you sit in the spectrum.