Publishers rely on traffic (both organic and paid) to boost the visibility of an advertiser’s product. Advertisers work with publishers for this exact purpose- to put their products and services in front of a wider audience.
But recently, publishers have encountered difficulty when increasing traffic through the most common platforms. For example, Google is providing information directly in search result pages, which reduces the amount of traffic that comes from SEO-related activities. Facebook is also experimenting with the idea of removing ad pages entirely from a user’s newsfeed. If this were to happen, publishers that rely heavily on Facebook would take a significant hit in terms of incoming traffic.
So what does this mean for you as a publisher? Moving forward, you’ll have to rely less on referral traffic and develop techniques for attracting the right people via alternative channels. Some publishers are investing in customer relationship tools that will allow them to bypass referral websites and connect directly with consumers. Others are channeling more resources towards content creation and attractive websites that will motivate users to bookmark their webpages.
Regardless of the technique you prefer, diversifying traffic will be critical for publishers soon. So how can you get started on this journey?
1. Focus on a Niche
The most common mistake that publishers (and other websites) make is trying to reach everyone at once. You may be tempted to cast a wide net and hope that it will catch lots of fish, but a more targeted approach works better. When you identify a specific niche and dig deeper into that audience, you’ll be able to develop a loyal following that comes back for more content. Loyal customers will also bypass referral traffic and come directly to your website.
Think about what sets you apart from other similar sites, and identify a unique voice that resonates with your target audience. Focusing on a specific niche also makes it easier for you to develop content, recommend products, and work with the most relevant advertisers.
2. Improve Homepage Design
In an environment where Google is adjusting its search algorithms, and Facebook is filtering out content, you need a way of attracting traffic directly to your homepage. A reader who types in your specific URL (or bookmarks your page) is one of your greatest assets as a publisher. Building such a following will keep you immune from the volatile nature of most referral websites.
But how do you get to the point where readers come directly to your online platform? The secret lies in web design. Because you already have a niche audience in mind, designing a website that they find valuable will generate a loyal following. Simple moves such as streamlining your content, boosting page responsiveness, and neatly arranging advertiser products can make a big difference over time.
Just ask HuffPost. When they cut down on the number of stories and developed a lean website, their homepage traffic increased by 23%. Customers are attracted to simple, clean, and responsive websites. If this is you, you’ll end up with a following that doesn’t have to come through the side door.
3. Create Unique and Engaging Content
As a publisher, you already know that content is king. However, diversifying your traffic doesn’t stop with creating unique and engaging content. You also have to make your content an experience—such that users can interact with it, share it, and discuss it with others.
Make sure you blend text with videos, images, GIFs, and other interactive tools that people enjoy to use. The media you select will largely depend on your target audience. For example, millennials love to watch videos in addition to reading text and viewing images. They also enjoy sharing this content on different social media platforms, which will increase traffic to your website.
Interactive content will help you bypass changing algorithms from referral websites, primarily because users will be sharing your content directly with their network of friends, family, and colleagues.
4. Build an Email List
If you were mostly dependent on Google searches and social media traffic, consider switching back to email marketing. Email never gets old, and it remains one of the most effective channels you can use to diversify traffic. This is true because of several reasons. One, email is less noisy than most other channels. Users are likely to read at least the subject of almost every email you send out. This means that the approach is more direct and personal. Secondly, email isn’t subject to algorithms that may affect content delivery and the scope of your outreach.
The primary challenge with email is increasing click-through rates. To get people to read your emails, you need a strategic approach that develops a quality email list. Make sure you have an email form on your website- and don’t forget to offer readers an incentive for signing up. Work with advertisers to provide coupons and discounts for specific products. You should also provide quality content such as newsletters and whitepapers in exchange for a user’s email address.
5. Explore Multiple Social Media Platforms
With Facebook being the lead referral social media platform for publishers, many tend to invest too much time on this single platform. A better idea is to diversify your social media presence. With Facebook thinking of filtering out ad content on users’ timelines, you should explore advertising on Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
Different platforms will enable you to access unexplored territory and boost incoming traffic. Remember to optimize your messaging strategy to fit each platform that you use.
7. Don’t Forget About Data Security
As both users and the government raise concerns regarding data security, publishers should be aware of how new legislation (such as CCPA and GDPR) have influenced traffic patterns. CCPA, for example, provides guidelines for how user data is collected, used, stored, and shared.
As the public becomes more conversant with these laws, publishers will need to demonstrate compliance to boost confidence from incoming traffic. This means that placing a clear and easy to read disclaimer, which explains how you’ll collect and use customer data, will be critical moving forward. Furthermore, you can provide reasonable financial incentives for those who opt-in to have their data collected.
As a publisher, being prepared to diversify your traffic will keep you one step ahead referral website practices. By using techniques such as web design, SEO, content creation, and email marketing, you’ll be able to boost incoming traffic and keep your margins intact.
This is a guest post by Ken Lynch, an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity’s success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk, and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT.