We have a building down the street from us that has housed five different restaurants in the past two years. The first had been around for years, and the owners were a part of the community. But they decided to retire, and sold the business. That owner “forgot” to pay taxes, and was shut down in a matter of months. And so the cycle began. Restaurant number two opened and shut down. Same with number three, four and five. Right now there is another large dumpster out front, so I’m sure number six will be open in just a few more weeks.

Why did each of these businesses fail so quickly? Ultimately it came down to traffic. If there aren’t enough people coming through the doors to make ends meet, you can’t survive as a business.

In order to get new business through your doors, you have to generate the traffic. Whether its recommendations from friends, coupons mailed to nearby homes, or networking with local businesses, you have to do something to generate the traffic.

That same thought process carries through to the online world as well.

In order to make connections online, you have to be “talking” in the right places. Its great if you blog, but if you are the only one reading it, it won’t do you any good. Same goes for Twitter, Facebook and more.

Start with your stats

Right now, do you know how many people are on your site? Do you know what pages people view the most? Do you know what pages they enter on, and what pages they leave on?

Its important to know what people are doing on your site. But it’s equally important to know how they find you and keep in touch with you as well.

For me, I look at stats all the time. By using a WordPress blog, you can get a variety of stats plugins to monitor traffic and other aspects of your site. You can also use Google Analytics, one of the best free stats programs available – I’ve used them for years.

Every month I look at where my traffic is coming from. Last month it looked like this:

33% – Google/Search engine
18% – Direct
16% – Facebook
9% – Twitter
24% – Other

With a quick glance, I can tell exactly where my traffic is coming from, and where I need to spend my time.

Google/search engines. This is traffic directly from searches taking place in the search engines, and is bringing in traffic for a specific reason. They had a need, and my search results filled that need. So the connection was made.

The next highest for me is Direct and is the easiest – these people type in your URL and know your site by name. They may have it bookmarked, or in their RSS reader. They check back with you again and again, so it’s important to continue to give them what they want.

Facebook and Twitter are more about relationships. I build my followers, provide quality content, and they click over when they are attracted by a particular piece of information. These can be strong relationships I’ve developed over months, or can be a new relationship that was found through a retweet or a posting.

Draw conclusions

It’s easy to spend a ton of time every day on Facebook, or spend time creating a new brochure. But until you see the statistics, and see where people are coming from, it’s hard to draw conclusions about where you spend your time.

For me, seeing the statistics is the setup for my game plan. I know that over 3 times as much traffic comes from quality content appearing in the search engines as opposed to how much content I file into Twitter. With 3 times as much return in one area, I know where to spend 3 times as much of my time as I work through my day.

Ultimately it’s all about results. And if you don’t know where your results are coming from, you can’t plan for the future.

Just like the restaurants that open up and hope people come through the door, your web presence can be nothing more than a shot in the dark. You can build, write, Facebook, and Tweet all day long. But without a strong game plan that’s bringing in the traffic you need to grow, its nothing more than a waste of time.

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