In an effort to empathize with our customers, we at Automattic attempt to tackle real world problems that our customers face in their journey toward success. The problem I’m looking at today is how to get more page views on an existing blog post with a budget of $20? It’s pretty much a problem that any online content creator has experienced.
At Automattic we’ve been working on a design system that largely involves 4 phases: Discovery, Hypothesis, Deliver, Listen. In each space we work through the common design cycle of Build, Measure, Learn, repeat. So I thought I’d use this system in an effort to increase page views of a blog post.
Lately we’ve been helping small businesses get their business online at WordPress.com. Small businesses are already very busy, so often times their websites go unattended, or the concept of a website is abandoned altogether. We’ve been helping these businesses succeed on all fronts as we work with them to get their brand live in the digital world. But like all websites, people want more traffic, and now this empathy challenge comes into play.
These businesses don’t have the time to blog continually so when something new goes live on their site, they need all the page views they can get to hopefully drive sales. With all the options out there, this can be overwhelming and time-consuming.
Looking at some of the resources, I thought to do some Discovery work here.
WordPress.com offers courses to help your site’s success at our Blogging University. These courses range from 5 days to 28 days, and are sent out as emails so users can read them on their own time. I took a look at a course on Branding and Growth which describes various ways in which someone with time to grow their site could attempt; exploring social networks, commenting on other people’s posts, guest posting, etc. It’s very valuable to those whose priority is to grow their website, but for a small business that spends all their time just keeping their doors open for walk-in traffic, it’s a bit more involved.
Our support forum at WordPress.com has some related articles about increasing traffic. These topics range from making content visible to search engines to paying for traffic.
Primer (a Google entity) has some interesting bits for businesses that they offer through an app that’s easily accessible from your phone. It’s a paid service, but offers quick lessons to improve your digital marketing skills.
I also thought to call a friend of mine who does this sort of thing for a living. Mark at Bermcannon Media suggested anything that gets views from a mobile device is the way to go. With a budget of $20 he’d probably run an ad campaign on Instagram. I spoke with him on his mobile phone as he was searching the internet on that same device and walking through Home Depot. Mobile phones are ubiquitous and reaching people through those devices is key.
Overall, I’ve learned that the Discovery phase is hard for an individual with minimal time to allocate. This was echoed recently on a List Apart article called Discovery on a budget part 1.
However, discovery is inherently different when you work at a nonprofit, startup, or fledgling small business. It may be a design team of one (you), with zero dollars to spend, and only a handful of people aware the business even exists.
And this is assuming there’s even a design team of one which most small businesses can’t afford.
So with some bit of Discovery completed, I’ll move on to the Hypothesis phase. I still don’t have a silver bullet, but I don’t think there will ever be one either. My hypothesis is that if we work on each of the pieces the Discovery phase taught us about, we’d get a lot closer to our goal of increased page views. But this takes time, knowledge, and investment.
The Delivery phase is very involved. This is probably why a large set of small businesses don’t have websites at all. The work put in to a successful website that increases sales is not a small task, but neither is growing a business.
I remember an opportunity in Detroit when a group of us went to talk with a small business owner to gain some insight. He had just climbed down off the roof from making a repair to speak with us. He was tired, out of breath, but still ready to engage us. It was amazing! At that moment I realized how limited time is for a small business owner. And so we’re striving to walk in their shoes to help solve the problems they face daily in relation to their website and driving traffic.
The Listen phase is also… involved. But if SMBs want to make sure their money invested to drive traffic is providing a good return, there needs to be an evaluation of the process. Listening helps everyone, the product creator and the product consumer, make better product choices.
No silver bullets
So this becomes a process of trial and error. There’s no silver bullet, or pot of gold waiting to be had. It’s an investment of time, and increased knowledge to boost one’s website traffic.
Throughout this process I did find some really interesting tidbits. The concept of commenting on other blog posts to increase traffic to your own site was new to me. This stood out because it’s about building relationships. Taking time to contribute to the success of someone else’s post doesn’t leave us empty. It builds the bridges in life that eventually promote healthy communication and human-to-human interactions. And if it happens to help increase traffic, all the better! In an attempt to solve a business problem, I found that it helps to solve a human problem first.
* Photo by Ron Jake Roque