You have a brand new website or you’ve just refreshed your old one. It’s got great flow, with an action step on each page, calls to action sprinkled liberally throughout, and a clear mission statement where everybody can see it. Great! Then why is it so quiet around here? You’ve checked your Google Analytics and the numbers are looking like a 10 year old’s shoe size. What’s wrong?
Designing for Your Crowd
I’m a big fan of aesthetics. I like simple, clean designs. There are some really ugly sites out there – and, paradoxically, some of those eyesore sites have the most traffic. Why, with their sidebars, popups, banners and screaming color schemes, do they become popular? Simple answer.
They have designed for their crowd.
The people who visit those sites are comfortable with a lot of … well, let’s call it noise. I know they’re not in my crowd, but when designing sites and advising clients, I always do this when on the road to building more traffic: Consider how people really use the site, and question who is really visiting it.
The best way to do those things is to look at sites that are like yours, that might speak to the same tribe, and study them. What makes this site or that site work for you? What are they like to navigate? Then, you’ll need to dig a little deeper.
Who’s in Your Tribe?
Seth Godin’s book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us is worth a read if you haven’t had a chance to get into it already. Every brand, every public person, and every social movement has a tribe, and those tapping into a big tribe become hugely popular. The tribe can be lovers of baseball, left-handed cooks, fans of the Grateful Dead, NRA members or readers of the New York Times. Tribes are powerful interest groups, and they express themselves beautifully on the social web.
The Social Web
For most of us, our websites are where we want to direct traffic. They are home base, where people learn more about you, sign up for your mailing list, buy your products. The people who come to any website are invisible to us except as numbers in Google Analytics. But Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, Quora, Goodreads, and Pinterest give us lots of insight into the real life humans who are checking us out online.
The social web connections of any site similar to yours deserve a close look. Look at their Twitter followers and see if you ought to be following some of the same people. Look at who they follow and see if those folks also merit a connection. Do the same with Facebook, Quora and LinkedIn, and blogs. When you do this, you’re levering the affinities other sites have built – perhaps the result of years of effort – and tapping into that intelligence.
It’s fairly easy to map your brand, persona or movement over the books your tribe may read (check Goodreads), the questions they like to answer (check Quora), the people they hang around with (Twitter, Facebook) and their business interests (LinkedIn Groups).
Tracking the Web
Now, if you’re like me, you’ve amassed a monster list of people. You’ve got lists of contacts to follow on Twitter, friend on Facebook, link to in LinkedIn, and follow in Quora. You have a million blogs to read. Before you lose your mind about all the work it might entail to track all those contacts, you’ll want to prioritize. Here’s what I do. First, I get to know the players.
Blogs. Feedly, a free magazine-like reader that makes it easy for me to look through a hundred blog posts a day. At Red Cup we’ve built databases and posted them as Google spreadsheets. These editorial calendars list the blogger, their favorite topics, and the traffic their site receives. Then we sort the blogs by traffic, and look most closely at the top ten who have the most traffic or the most interesting posts over time. We pay attention to those popular blogs.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. I use Hootsuite to track social media, build lists, respond and interact. We sort the Hootsuite Streams by Klout score to be sure we are interacting with those who have the most reach.
When I want to drill down further, I use Batchbook to track individual contacts. Batchbook (and a few other socially-smart CRM applications) allow you to track Twitter and Facebook feeds of your contacts so you can see everything on one screen.
Learn from Your Affinity Sites
Now you can take all you’ve learned and apply it to your own site. You’ve surveyed the landscape, met and tracked the major players, leveraged the knowledge provided to you by competing and affinity sites, and discovered the boundaries of your tribe. You can guide your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Quora friends to your site and get more traffic – but not just any traffic – you’re connecting with the people who really want to hear your message. That’s using social SEO.