Every website has a plateau which marks the growth of traffic up to a point of diminishing returns.
The plateau is like a glass ceiling. It can be so difficult to crack, and often causes a loss in motivation when your project stalls and loses momentum for apparently no reason. It’s even more frustrating when you increase your workload and still can’t see the desired improvements.
This post is about conquering the plateau, switching gears and blasting your website to the next level. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it’s the hardest challenge for any webmaster to overcome.
Your patience will be tested, and your hairline will surely recede. Your dinners will disappear in the space of 4 minutes and your children will begin to refer to you as “that angry man” who lives in the basement. Will it be worth the struggle? The struggle is what we live for!
Let’s take a look at some tips and techniques for taking that next step.
Step out of your comfort zone.
The growth plateau is very closely tied to our personal comfort zones. What are we willing to write about? What are we willing to do to attract publicity? How many backs will we scratch to get that invaluable mention?
I believe that many stalling projects can be attributed to losing your nerve and not fully committing to a vision of success. Maybe you want to become the Internet’s next life coach? This isn’t possible if you live in a shell, blogging fictional stories and avoiding the hazard of actually getting out there and talking to people.
Behind most successful websites, you will find fiercely driven owners who realised the importance of exiting their comfort zones and making themselves heard in their respective markets. If you never volunteer for interviews, never offer to write guest posts, and never spend time looking straight in to the eyes of your peers, how can you expect to earn their sweeping respect?
Whatever comfort zone you have erected is usually built on foundations of fear. Overcome that fear and put your content and voice where it is likely to be judged.
100% praise for your website means you’re not taking enough risks.
Mimic existing blueprints for success.
The fact that you’re reading this post shows that you believe there is somebody out there doing your job better than you. Hey, it might not be me, but I’m sure there’s somebody out there you would interrogate for a winning formula if you had half the chance. This is a healthy attitude to have.
Mimicking the success of your industry’s leaders is the safe way of guaranteeing growth, but are you doing it correctly?
When you analyse your superior competition, what is it that you’re attempting to steal from them? If it’s their mission statement and not their blood, sweat and tears then you’re trying to ride a unicorn to the bank. I see it all the time. Webmasters trying to explode traffic by duping the intention and sentiment, but completely misjudging the application. Look at your superiors not for their success, but for the foundations that success is built on.
How often do they update their sites? How active are they in the comments? What forums do they post on? What social networks do they utilise? How can you replicate their backlink profiles? Who do they outsource to? What plugins and incentives do they run? What type of coffee do they drink?
Duplicate the entire work flow! Don’t just publish similar content and hope it enjoys the same success. You’re dealing with finely tuned and well-oiled profit machines. What you see on the homepage is just an afterthought.
Invest in brandable assets.
When you become as big as Facebook or Google, you don’t try to be the best at everything. You simply stick to your strengths and invest in the best that other people can muster. MySpace went down the shitter because it internalised every aspect of it’s business and was left with a half-baked final product.
So learn from Facebook and Google. Look to invest in high quality websites, scripts and services that could be integrated with your own product. I have purchased websites on Flippa with the sole purpose of re-branding them under my own site and merging the traffic. It costs money, but it provides instant momentum and growth.
Demand attention by stroking the ego.
I can’t think of a better example of innovative linkbuilding than Dukeo’s “Who is…” series using caricatures as the bait to get high profile bloggers to take notice.
I didn’t know too much about Dukeo until I received a link to a post that had my name in the title. There I saw myself depicted in caricature form (incredibly accurately), along with a lengthy biography detailing my background in the industry.
The biography alone would normally be enough to get a link. But the caricature, excellent as it was, meant that I had all the more reason to link to his site and to really force my readers over there. Take a look for yourself.
I was even more impressed when I discovered that the caricatures were not actually drawn by Sté, the owner, but by a hired artist.
It shows how taking a little initiative can really produce something memorable and effective if you think outside the box. Even if, like Finch, your own drawings look like arse.
Check out the weird and wacky jobs on Fiverr to devise a similarly ruthless link building strategy.
Adapt to new forms of media.
Webmasters often forget that audio and video content can open up a whole new realm of possibilities for generating traffic.
Again, it comes back to stepping out of your comfort zone. Are there parts of your website that could be adapted and re-issued in video or audio form? Maybe as podcasts, YouTube videos or even a mobile application? Not only will doing so reach new corners of the market, but it will open up valuable new income streams.
Wake up and smell the coffee. It’s 2011 and the traditional ‘words on a page’ approach is just one form of media.
Sharpen your prose.
I believe far too many bloggers sit on the fence when they would enjoy much more success by committing to an opinion and lighting a fire under it.
Read through your posts. Does it sound like the author believes in them? You will find people are much more happy to link to you if you’ve taken a stand, in a big way, and your thoughts reflect their own. This is often the intention, but it can fall apart if your writing isn’t sharp enough. Become a sharp opinionated writer who doesn’t understand the meaning of neutral vocabulary.
Being in the Internet Marketing industry is a big help. We are blessed with enough pantomime villains, who legitimately don’t know shit about their craft, to chug out a giant scathing FU every day for the rest of our lives.
Give your visitors a hero to believe in.
So here’s a quick tip. People buy in to personalities.
Imagine yourself inside your reader’s head. What do they aspire to become? What are their fiercest dreams and ambitions? Now look at your site. Are you positioning yourself as the man who controls the gateway to that lucrative future?
If you can position yourself as simply one step closer to the dream lifestyle that your readers are desperate to attain, you will find yourself in a position of power and influence. Wedge yourself where the dreaming ends and the glamour begins. Traffic will surely follow.
I’ve already written a meandering piece on this very subject called how to brand yourself and your blog. Go take a peek.
How To Increase Traffic: Some final tips
Spend some money on paid ad campaigns. I know how much a jolly webmaster hates to spend money on exposure when there are 101 free methods of generating traffic!!1! but you get what you pay for. And in many cases, as you can see, that turns out to be fuck all.
Has your design outstayed it’s welcome? The more features you add to your site, the more likely it is that your pages are becoming convoluted and the message is being lost. Often a redesign with prioritised content can fix this problem.
Allow visitors to submit questions. This provides endless new material, adds to your reputation and allows you to create content using exact match phrases that your target market are actively searching for. It’s sensible on every level.
Showcase your best post or feature. Pinpoint similar sites in your industry. Outsource the creation of an effective eye catching banner and then use Google Content Network to advertise your very best post. I always prefer to link to a post or feature rather than the homepage. It provides greater focus and control. Be sure to litter the page with incentives to subscribe!
Scale sideways. The plateau can often be overcome by asking “What else is my target market interested in?“. You don’t want to lose sight of your main demo, but you can collect closely related readers by scaling sideways and bringing your perspective to new topics. This also applies to guest posting.
Spread some rumours. Follow the Z List motto that any publicity is good publicity. Depending on your niche, it may be possible to inject some controversial rumours in to the blogosphere. I don’t know, maybe you’re a Pickup Artist who shagged his way to a broken dick and now hasn’t been seen since entering the Thai Red Light District last Thursday. Stir up some shit, dismiss it, and ride the waves of traffic. Why not apply for the next series of Big Brother? Go on, lose your dignity.
Start attending events. Check the event schedule for your area of expertise, grab yourself some business cards, and go make an impression. Offline marketing is not dead. It just requires a shower and the effort to get off your arse.
Get in to bed with your industry’s curators. Sometimes it pays to be friendly with the right individuals. Adapt a social strategy of reciprocating goodwill shown to you, and actively seeking the goodwill of those who run the rule at the top of your vertical. You might not want to brush shoulders with them, but they can help you get what you want. Traffic, fame and fortune comes at a price!
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