The Declining Web Traffic Conundrum

Have the number of people visiting your website declined this year?

I have noticed a downward trend in the number of organic site visitors for  ChristianPublishers.net, ChristianAward.com, BookCrash.com, and this website since the beginning of 2019. I have also heard from others that they are experiencing the same thing.

Website Traffic Decreasing

This decrease in site traffic has me perplexed. No significant changes were made with the websites, so the downward shift in numbers has been rather disconcerting.

At first, I wondered whether Alexa and smart speakers were part of the problem. Households using smart speakers are increasing and expected to reach 55% of U.S. households by 2022. Smart speakers only give one answer for search questions, so it is easy to not be featured for a question asked of a smart speaker. Yet this did not seem like the right answer since smart speakers have not replaced the use of search engines. Google is still ranked the number one website worldwide.

Then, someone suggested that it might be that Google was ranking websites with links to YouTube videos higher than other websites. Since Google owns YouTube and makes money from the site, that made some sense. However, I was not sure that this was the answer either.

Recently, I ran across an article by Social Media Examiner. In this article, they report that they have also been experiencing a decrease in website traffic. After some research, they discovered that this decline is directly linked to Google and changes Google is making.

The article asserts that, historically, Google has been in the business of providing people millions of answers to any one question. Smart speakers are changing this. Smart speakers—think Alexa—are giving ONE answer to a question. Google is following suit. Social Media Examiner states:

“Google is no longer in the business of delivering up lots of answers. Instead, it’s in the business of delivering a single answer—without the need to click.”

Bingo. This rang true. I believe that this is why website traffic has been declining this year. Google search is changing. It is becoming harder for any website to be “discovered” in a Google search.

Google Search

If it is becoming harder to get website traffic from search engines, how can you compensate? What can you do to still have people discover you and your books? I suggest that a shift needs to be made in focus. Instead of concentrating on trying to get more website traffic from search engines, focus on what you have.

1.  Increase Your Website Conversion Rate

Conversion means that you convince a website visitor to take an action on your website. This action might be to buy your book or sign up for your email news or tips. The average conversion for an e-commerce site in the United States is 2.63%. This means that out of 100 visitors, an average site will have less than three people take an action.

Website traffic is great, but it does not mean much unless you get people to commit. Focus your time and attention on making your website draw visitors in so that they sign up for your email news or tips. Offer freebies—think tip sheet, recipe, or novella— or host a giveaway to encourage people to sign up to receive ongoing helpful information and insights from you. Increase your conversion rate your audience will still grow.

2.  Nurture Your Fans

Your email list provides you the opportunity to consistently remind your target audience that you and your books exist. You can nurture this group of interested people and turn them into fans and super fan. Fans and super fans believe in you. They will tell others about you, helping you enlarge your audience without having to rely on traffic from Google search.

I would love to hear from you. Have you been experiencing a decline in organic website traffic this year?

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How Responsive Are You?

24 hours. That is the length of a day. It’s also the time-frame in which people expect a response.

How Responsive Are You?

Whether it is:

  • a phone call
  • an email
  • a text
  • a direct message on social media
  • comments on social media

most people expect a response within a day. Slower responses equate with poor customer service in consumers’ minds.

A recent study by Clutch that surveyed U.S. adults found that 83% of the respondents said that if they interact with a brand on social media, they expect a response within a day. Over one-third actually expect a response sooner—38% expect a response within an hour.

Not surprisingly, younger consumers are more likely than older consumers to expect brands to respond quickly. Some 90% of consumers ages 18 to 29 expect brands to respond to their comments on social media within a day or less.

Responsiveness can mean the difference between acquiring and losing a customer.

The phrase “Strike while the iron’s hot” can be applied to inquiries you receive. Whether you are contacted by a potential reader, a journalist, a media host, a reviewer, an influencer, or an event planner, the timeliness of your response will have a direct impact on your sales and exposure.

Recently, I was contacted by a gentleman who produces a magazine for readers that features Christian books. He was looking to open a dialog about how to feature more Indie published books in his magazine.

I sent a timely response. Then I waited. I did not hear back from this gentleman for a couple of weeks. In his follow-up email, he told me that publishing the magazine was his side business, which is why he had not gotten back to me sooner.

I responded to his second email in a timely fashion. That was about a month ago. I still have not heard back from him.

Due to the lengthy time-frame in which this gentleman communicates, I have become reluctant to pursue further discussion with him. His lack of timely response makes me question whether he will follow through on any agreement that we come to. It also makes me question whether he will have success with his venture moving forward.

Writing, publishing, and marketing books is a side-venture or “second” job for most Indie authors. Don’t treat it as such. Give the same timely attention to inquiries as you would if it was your primary job. Otherwise, you will lose out.

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The Law of Unity

United we stand; divided we fall.

This Kentucky state motto is often used to inspire unity and collaboration.

Unity works in God’s kingdom. United, our light shines brighter and we have a greater impact on the world. Sadly, instead of uniting, often Christians view other Christians as their competitors, not their teammates.

I have witnessed this with Christian authors and publishers. Often authors and publishers view other in the industry as their competition. Instead, we should be embracing each other, seeking for ways to build each other up, and exploring ways to work together for Kingdom purposes.

If you are a Christian author or publisher, other Christians writing and producing Christian books are not your competition. These people are on the same team as you. We are all working toward the same goal—or we should be. Our common goal is to draw people to God.

The law of unity is simple. When we are united, our efforts are multiplied. In other words, when we join forces with other Christians working for the same goal, collectively our impact for the Gospel and God’s Kingdom will be much greater.

Jesus’ desire was for unity among his followers. In his prayer in John 17, he says, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me.

Since we are on the same team, we should be helping and cheering each other on. Are you cheering or helping your fellow Christian authors?

Consider these five easy ways to unite and cheer on your fellow Christian authors and publishers:

  1. Review and recommend others books to your followers.
  2. Invite other Christian authors to be a guest on your blog or podcast.
  3. Share fellow Christian authors’ social media posts with your followers.
  4. Give other authors a shout out when they have a noteworthy accomplishment.
  5. Offer words of encouragement and advice to others who are writing and publishing Christian books.

As teammates, we should be looking after each other’s interests as well as our own. When we do, our collective efforts will be multiplied. Remember, there is room for everyone in God’s kingdom.

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Awareness Is Always the First Step

“Have you tried Topgolf?”, my friend asked. I had not even heard of the place until she mentioned it.

It turns out that Topgolf is a popular new game. Players rent a bay in what resembles a driving range to play a golf game. Players score points by hitting micro-chipped golf balls at giant targets in a field. Points are scored based on the distance of the target and how close the ball is to the bulls-eye of the target.

Awareness is the first step

Until someone asked me about it, I was blissfully unaware that Topgolf existed. Now I know. Now I have one more place I can choose to spend my leisure dollars.

Awareness is always the first step in a buyer’s journey. After all, I can’t buy something I don’t know exists.

Eugene Schwartz, an advertising specialist, described five levels of awareness that buyers journey through in his book Breakthrough Advertising. The five levels are:

  1. Unaware: Buyers don’t know your product or service exists, or that they have a need for it.
  2. Problem aware: Buyers are aware they have a problem, but they don’t know the solutions.
  3. Solution aware: Buyers are aware of some solutions to their problem, but are not aware of your specific solution.
  4. Product aware: Buyers have become aware of your product, but they have not bought it yet.
  5. Most aware: Buyers who have purchased and used your product.

I traveled through these five steps with Topgolf.

  1. Unaware: I did not even know that Topgolf existed.
  2. Problem aware: I needed a fun local activity for my son and his friends during Spring break.
  3. Solution aware: I knew of a couple things we could do, but wanted more options.
  4. Product aware: A friend mentioned Topgolf, so I checked it out since my son enjoys golf.
  5. Most aware: We rented a bay at Topgolf over Spring break and played a couple games. It was fun. We may do it again.

This first step in a buyer’s journey is your marketing challenge. Making people aware of your books and how they solve a problem for buyers is the goal of your marketing activities.

Exposure is key. Word-of-mouth is your best tool for raising awareness. Get people talking about your books and people will become aware they exist.

Offering free review copies of your book and giving away your book to key influencers is powerful and drives word-of-mouth. Don’t skimp on this step of your marketing plan. Give books away and watch the Biblical principle of “give and it will be given to you” play out.

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Your Next Big Break

Your big break—that media interview, that stellar endorsement, an influencer willing to work with you, a large book order, that awesome speaking engagement—might be right around the corner. You never know when it will happen… but I can guarantee it won’t happen if you don’t plant seeds.

To harvest fruit, you must first plant seeds. All your marketing efforts—both small and large—are seeds you are planting.

Marketing is planting seeds

I have sent out scores of press releases. Many never get a response. Not too long ago, I sent out another press release to the media. I really wasn’t anticipating much from it. After all, I know that press releases are about planting seeds and watering those seeds.

A few weeks later, I received an email. It said:

I am doing a story on indie publishing in the Christian market. I’ll talk to a number of sources for the story, and would love to include you and the newly named CIPA.

An interview was scheduled. A conversation took place. Then, an article was published. I was quoted in the article.

Not a big break, but a nice one that brought more exposure. You can read the article here.

Too many authors are “one and done”. They try something once. When they don’t get the result they expected, they decide that the marketing technique did not work and don’t try it again.

In marketing, “one and done” will kill your efforts. No farmer plants one seed and expects a good crop. Farmers do not know which seeds will germinate or which seeds will lie fallow or end up getting eaten. So, they plant many, many seeds, sometimes overseeding so they can ensure a crop.

Wise King Solomon knew this principle. He said:

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hand rest, because you don’t know which will succeed, whether one or the other, or if both of them will be equally good.

writing at night

In book marketing language, this statement reads:

In the morning conduct your marketing activities, and at evening don’t think you are done, because you do not know which activity will succeed, whether one or the other, or if all of them will be equally good.

You can’t have a big break unless you are constantly pursuing opportunities. So, keep doing marketing activities like:

  • Sending out those press releases.
  • Pitching for interviews.
  • Asking for those endorsements.
  • Pursuing those speaking engagements.
  • Seeking collaboration with other authors.
  • Showing up day in, day out on social media adding value to other’s lives.

And remember that God is the Lord of the Harvest. Your success rests in his hands. Trust him.

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Photo courtesy of Dương Trí and Bruce Mars.