People go online to solve problems.
Think about it, everything you do online is to solve a problem. Want to know the phone number for the restaurant? Want to find out the score of the game? Want to know what your friends are doing? Every action online is about solving a problem.
The old way of thinking was singularly focused on getting users to your Web site. Site success was tracked on page visits, unique visitors, and returning visitors.
Today, it isn’t important how many people visit your Web site, but what is important is how many people access your content and take the action you most desire (conversions). If your Web site is the only way a user can access your content, you are going to ultimately fail. The trick is to figure out where the users you want to get in front of are online, how best to deliver your content to them, and how you can convert them.
Either users will find you, or you must find them. In this post I’m going to address some ways you can find them, in the next I’ll tackle them finding you.
Distributing content, sharing links, and advertising where your audience is likely to be are three good ways to go out and find your audience.
Distributing content beyond your Web site is a great way to go to your user, but corporations often fear the loss of control and prefer containing all content within their own site. For my community Web site (www.newsovercoffee.com) I no longer make posts directly to my blog. Instead, I use the email based service Posterous, which is a blog itself. I send an email and the content posts to Posterous, which then redistributes to the sites of my choice. Currently, content is posted at Posterous, Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, Delicious, and Flickr. Since I use the Twitter widget on LinkedIn, post links are rendered there as well. I began doing this about 18 months ago and while site visits are down, the overall number of readers per day is up. The difference is where they are reading it.
If you employ a paid content model, then at least distribute a teaser to raise awareness of your service.
A second way to go to the user is by sharing links with related and relevant sites, which exposes readers of those sites to my own and vice-versa. Referral accounts for 12% of my Web traffic and 80% or more of that is from two sources (a daily print newspaper and another blog focused on local events, but in a larger geographical area than my own).
I don’t use advertising, but this is an excellent tool for those with a budget. Whether you use AdWords or identify sites where your audience regularly visits and purchase advertising, the goal is to get these users to click on your link and access the content that would be of interest to them. This is similar to sharing links, except that it isn’t reciprocal and the payment is based on access to the audience.
AdWords is at the junction of users finding you and you finding users, because you can have your advertisement rendered with search results. Competition for keywords can be vicious depending on the market you are in, and costs can quickly escalate if you don’t carefully design your campaign. The results can also be spectacular. The ability to “ensure” that your advertisement appears on specific searches means you will be reaching that audience on a regular basis and if you properly conduct your SEO you’ll have more than one listing on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
AdWords brings us to search, and I will address that in the next post on ways to be found online.
Some additional ways to find your audience include email campaigns using purchased, targeted lists, print or other traditional media with a call for action to visit your site, and participation at events or conferences, again with material including a call to action to visit your site.