Logo Rob Buckley – Freelance Journalist and Editor

Hard driving

Hard driving

It is easy to build a web site, yet difficult to attract and keep an audience for it. But there are strategies organisations can follow to overcome this challenge.

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It is possible to build the best web site in the world, yet not have a single soul visit or even know it exists, without a sound strategy for driving traffic there - and keeping it there.

Even worse, if a campaign succeeds and traffic levels soar, it is often a challenge to keep that traffic coming back. But if organisations focus on a few proven methods and put the right kind of effort into their web sites, they can ensure they get both good traffic levels and site 'stickiness'.

Many organisations trying to attract business to their sites use offline campaigns, such as television, print advertising and direct mail campaigns to encourage people to visit a site.

These can help, particularly if customers and potential customers are not heavy web users and are more reliant on traditional channels for information. PC maker Dell, for example, relies heavily on print advertising in newspapers and specialist magazines to drive potential buyers to its web site - with great success.

Duke of URL
However, each channel has caveats, some of them surprisingly simple. For television advertising, for example, organisations need to have a simple URL, or potential customers will not remember it.

But the URL provided in advertising need not be the same as the one most users would reach via online mechanisms. Instead, says Spencer Gallagher, managing director of new media marketing agency Bluhalo, they can be simplified sites designed for people who may not be as familiar with the web or for different audiences. In addition, having a different URL can also help track which customers come to the site via which channels or advertising campaigns, enabling the effectiveness of different media to be more easily assessed.

Direct marketing and print adverts can use longer URLs for their campaigns, since the customer can read them from the campaign when finding the site. But, as with all advertising, they need to provide a strong incentive for customers to visit.

“Like all retail channels, discounting is a major incentive for customers to purchase, so it's no surprise this is an often-used strategy to switch customers from traditional retail channels to the web channel,” says Rob Mettler, a user experience consultant at PA Consulting.

“A variety of strategies can be employed, whether it is a waiver of set-up or booking fee, a straight £20-off offer, three for the price of two, or 10% off your first order, these can all lead to a substantial increase in web site sales when coupled with a well targeted and executed marketing campaign,” says Mettler.

Online is cheaper
Online campaigns will usually provide a cheaper and more effective method of increasing site traffic. However, organisations will often simply try translate the model they use offline. Instead of television and print adverts, they will use banner and skyscraper adverts; instead of direct mail, they will adopt direct emailing.

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