It's time we re-framed the concept of "driving traffic" to websites.
Just what is traffic anyway?
Once upon a time, it wasn't much more than a bunch of anonymous vehicles, people or things moving from one place to another. But since the dawn of the web, it's what companies receive when visitors click from one place to another. And that's the dissatisfying result: if your web strategy focuses on driving traffic, you end up with anonymous clicks and page after page of site traffic reports of limited value.
Rather than "driving traffic," focus on getting motivated prospects and valuable customers to visit your websites and convert them into qualified sales leads. By re-framing your objectives, you may end up reallocating some of your online marketing investments.
Take keyword ads on general search engines. While these are important parts of an online marketing strategy, your ads may not be reaching the audience you are interested in targeting. You can end up paying for a glut of unqualified traffic -- even if you have the right keywords.
One way business-to-business advertisers can avoid attracting unqualified traffic from the vast ocean of consumers visiting mass market search engines is by being more focused with your keywords. Instead of using "pumps," consider using "turbine pumps," a keyword geared toward a specific audience. Using long tail SEO keyword practices will attract people with the same specific and targeted interests.
Another strategy delivering motivated prospects -- not just clicks -- is displaying ads only to targeted audiences. You can't always do this on general search engines, but you can with some B2B oriented destination sites -- vertical search engines -- where your filtered, targeted audiences are aggregated for you.
Other strategies to drive qualified prospects to your site include having a presence in relevant online directories, advertising in appropriate e-newsletters and showcasing your capabilities with banner ads on targeted web sites.
A robust, visible presence -- more than just a link to your website -- in online directories provides branding and messaging capabilities to motivate qualified prospects to visit you. Look for directories that are geared exclusively toward your B2B audience. They offer multiple options for showcasing your company and products.
Purchasing ads in e-newsletters can also change the focus from traffic to qualified leads. When determining an e-newsletter advertising strategy, consider both the size of the audience and the mix of readers. Ask the publisher for both the number of subscribers and a subscriber profile, preferably by industry and job function. Review the subscriber profile and you'll know if you're targeting the right audience.
Finally, don't forget online banner ads that appear on targeted websites. Seek out a partner that offers a banner ad network allowing you to reach targeted audiences across multiple sites with a single buy, helping to save media research, program management and tracking time.
These strategies drive prospects to your website, usually to a specific landing page deep within the site containing relevant content. Now the other half of the equation comes into play: You need to convert these visitors into qualified leads.
The easiest way to accomplish this is by offering valuable content that qualified prospects will register to obtain. In other words, exchange something valuable to you (their contact information) for something of value to them (a white paper or Webinar offer). Your lead-focused landing page should also include a simple form that captures an email address and a phone number.
Converting site visitors from nameless, faceless clicks to identifiable prospects also gives you a way to accurately measure the effectiveness of your marketing initiatives, allowing you to shift dollars to the programs that perform best.
Follow these suggestions and you'll never again incorrectly focus on "driving traffic" to your website. Your focus will be exactly where it needs to be: on customers, not clicks.
Chris Chariton is VP, marketing services and product management, at GlobalSpec.