Growing your online traffic is difficult, but if you succeed, the impact on your overall revenues can be significant. There are several methods to increasing your visibility online, such as inbound marketing, but it can be difficult to know where to start, or just plain daunting. One thing that all companies who wish to grow their website traffic should be doing, is regularly blogging, as there are multiple benefits of doing so.
1. Increased Traffic from Search Engines
Google (and other search engines) use automated programs called spiders (or crawlers, robots) that follow links around the web to find and index new content to return in search results. If you're blogging regularly, search engines will index all that additional content you have written and potentially return it to their users for relevant searches.
For example, If you sell garden irrigation systems on your website, and you've written blog posts that walk people through how to install them, how to set timers, or the benefits of using one, the chances are that your blog posts will be in the search results when people are looking for a helpful guide on this topic.
Exploit long-tail searches - "How to operate W340X irrigation pro water timer" is a long-tail search that is not likely to have a high volume of searches. It is much easier to rank highly for long-tail searches as they are less competitive. You can gain small amounts of traffic from these searches with few or no inbound links. Together, they can contribute a significant amount of traffic. If you have useful articles that answer a variety of long-tail questions, you will reap the rewards. You just need to create the content that answers the questions... If people find these articles useful, there is a good chance that they will share them and link to them.
It is well known that links to your website are beneficial to your Google rankings. However, the days of placing links everywhere and anywhere in order to climb up the search engine results pages are over. That does not work anymore. It's in Google's interests to present their users with the most useful results, not the results that reflect companies who have tried to manipulate their rankings the most. That being said, links are still important, but it is no longer the sheer number of links that matters, but more the quality and authority of the linking sites, and their relevancy to your site. Having a good back link profile will help you to rank for the more competitive short-tail keywords like "water timer".
Gaining links to your website organically, by creating content that people willingly link to of their own free will, is called content marketing.
2. Become a recognised authority in your subject area
Your blog is a great place for you to demonstrate how much you know about your products and the subject they relate to. People like to buy from experts and people with a demonstrable passion for their products or industry. If you're a fashion designer, you could blog about style tips and fashion trends. If you sell barbecues, you can write articles where you enthusiastically explain advanced grilling techniques or recipes.
If your content is a pleasure to read, helpful or interesting in some way, chances are that people will come back to read what else you post. These returning visitors may end up exploring your site further than the blog, and finding your shop. If they regularly read what you're writing then they might just bear you in mind when the time comes that they need to make that purchase.
3. Now that you have their attention...
Done right, you can successfully use your blog to sell to your readers. That is not to say you should write a blog post where you explain why people should buy from you, or where you go into detail about product specifications and technical babble. People don't like to read that sort of thing. However, if you can integrate the product you sell to a useful blog post, so much the better. Take the afore-mentioned barbecue recipe; if there happens to be a part where using that poultry roaster (that you sell) will make all the difference, then mention that and include a handy link if they want to buy it.
The key to selling through your blog is to do it softly and with subtlety, and only where it is relevant. People don't like being blatantly sold to. In the age of on-tap, abundant digital information - they would prefer to find out for themselves whether they want something. Your blog post must help them to do that, not force anything on them. As soon as you stop being helpful, and start being promotional, most people will leave.
4. A gateway to other marketing channels
If you have a decent amount of readers, you can start building a subscriber list. You can easily add a box to your website so that people can enter their email address and receive a weekly digest of blog posts, or to be notified whenever new content is published. You can also leverage this to softly sell to your subscribers by featuring products in the emails, or notify them of new products or services that they might be interested in. Just don't make this the sole purpose of the email - use it to complement some content they may find useful. Don't forget to include an unsubscribe option in any marketing emails and update your database accordingly!
Your blog articles provide you with excellent material for social media. Your social media accounts should also be featured prominently somewhere on your blog, so that your readers can find and follow them. Being completely self-promoting via your social media is generally a bad idea, but it's acceptable to occasionally share new products and services. If you're sharing pictures or videos that show fun or useful ways to use your products then that's great! It's also a good idea to include social sharing buttons on your blog, so that people can share your articles to their followers if they found them particularly useful, bringing extra traffic.
Other Potential Pitfalls...
Google prefers websites with "fresh content" - i.e. websites that update regularly with new content for them to crawl and index. If you're going to blog (and you should), make sure it is regular - with new blog posts added at least weekly.
The other thing Google likes is long content. This doesn't mean every post you write needs to be 2,000 words long, but it does mean that every post shouldn't be 300 words long and optimised for a few keywords. That approach is too easy. People realised that doing this helped them to rank in Google, so it was done to death. When something that helps you rank in Google becomes spammy, they change the game - hence now the preference for long form content.
Blogs are your opportunity to speak to your customers - and to potential customers. They are potentially your free advertising space in Google, so use them to show just how much you care about your products and how helpful you can be!