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’s That Working for You?

“How’s that working for you?” This little, yet powerful question was made popular by Phillip McGraw, of the Dr. Phil show.

Let me ask it of you, author. When it comes to social media, “How’s that working for you?”

How's That Working for You?

When I consult with authors, I frequently hear this phrase—or one similar:

“I’m on Facebook. I have a lot of followers. They like and comment on what I post, but people aren’t buying my book.”

In fact, studies show that, on average, 53% of people who follow brands (businesses) on social media don’t buy anything from them at all. They just want the content (the information) the brand shares.

Authors hear “build a platform” and jump into social media trying to gain an audience. Often, they gain followers, but get frustrated when they don’t see these followers convert to book sales.

One reason for this is that people are not in a buying frame of mind when they are browsing social media. It is much easier to sell someone a book or product when they are already “shopping”. Someone who is engaged in the shopping process is much easier to persuade to buy something than someone who is not thinking about buying a book or product.

This does not mean that you can’t or won’t ever sell a book to someone via social media, it just means that it is harder. This is why I tell authors to not just use one tool (social media) to market their books.

Social Media is not your only marketing tool.

Instead, social media should be used in conjunction with other marketing tools like:

1. Content Marketing

Content marketing is about giving your audience useful information that has value for them. It is information that your target audience is thirsty for. It’s about creating blogs, articles, video, and audio that provides valuable information and insight for your audience. One study showed that 7 out of 10 consumers would rather learn about a product or company from interesting content than from an ad.

2. Email Marketing

Email is more effective at reaching consumers than social media. Emails prompt purchases at a rate of at least three times that of social media. Two-thirds (66%) of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message. When people like the content you are creating, they will give you their email address in exchange for receiving more content directly. This gives you the opportunity to market your books directly to a group of interested people.

3. Media Interviews and Speaking Engagements

Speaking is one of the best ways to sell books because people buy books from authors they know and trust. Speaking to a group of people develops that trust and allows an audience to get to know you. Media interviews work similarly. After people hear you on the radio or a podcast, they feel they know you and are more likely to purchase your books.

Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference

I will be teaching four continuing sessions on “You CAN Indie Publish & Market Your Book” at the upcoming Great Philly Christian Writers Conference in August. This seminar focuses both on how to publish your book as well as how to begin marketing your book—using more than social media. I invite you to attend the conference and get the information and knowledge you need to successfully publish and promote your books.

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Are You Using This Strong Incentive?

Did you know that curiosity is one of the strongest human incentives? Humans are curious by nature. Snag a person’s curiosity and you have their attention.

Good marketers use curiosity to grab people’s attention so that they can sell them a product. These marketers use sales text that draws the reader.

Curiosity is a powerful marketing tool.

Take headlines. Often marketers will use one of four tactics to grab people’s attention by eliciting curiosity. Curiosity is why these types of headlines get the most clicks:

1. Makes an outrageous claim.

Headlines like “Elvis Is Not Dead” or “Why Marriage Is Not for You” are outrageous. The sheer ludicrousness of their message raises curiosity, making people want to know what the author has to say.

2. Goes against conventional wisdom.

Headlines like “Why Breakfast Is Not the Most Important Meal of the Day” and “Failure Is an Option” go against what most people have been taught. Since the claim is in conflict with what society believes, it raises our curiosity.

3. Opens up a debate.

Headlines that make statements like “Five Ways Women are Better Bosses Than Men” and “Ten Reasons Prom Night is Overrated” are opinions that touch nerves. When people’s opinions are challenged, their curiosity to listen to or read what is being asserted is raised.

4. Claims about the best or worst of something.

Headline like “The 10 Best Movies of 2018” and “The 10 Worst Places to Vacation” make people curious about whether they have seen the 10 movies, whether they have vacationed in a “worst” place, and whether they agree with the list or not.

In a world with so much competing for people’s attention, curiosity is a powerful marketing tool. You can learn to use curiosity to increase reader’s engagement with their books. Crafting your book descriptions and sales text in a manner that raises curiosity can help increase sales. Don’t give everything away in your book’s description. The description is meant to lure the reader in to want to know more.

While not a Christian book, the book description for Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life embodies what raising curiosity in sales text looks like. The book’s description states:

What does the nervous system of the lowly lobster have to tell us about standing up straight (with our shoulders back) and about success in life? Why did ancient Egyptians worship the capacity to pay careful attention as the highest of gods? What dreadful paths do people tread when they become resentful, arrogant and vengeful? Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility, distilling the world’s wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life.  

Are you writing to hook people’s curiosity? Do your titles, headlines, and sales text draw people in and catch their interest? How might you re-word your current book description to improve the “curiosity” factor and snag more sales?

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Photo courtesy of Mali Maeder.

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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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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