So you watched the latest Super Bowl ads. Did you enjoy them? I’ll bet you laughed at Harrison Ford’s dog ordering his favorite foods with the failed Alexa dog collar. Did the M&Ms ad with Christina Applegate as the harassed mom resonate with you?
Maybe, if you’re of — ahem — a certain age, you sang along to Budweiser’s Bob Dylan classic.
Or perhaps you sat up and listened most of all to supermodel Karlie Kloss extolling the virtues of Wix as a website-building platform…
Create a personal website that looks stunning… Update it, keep it fresh whenever you want — it instantly gives my site a whole new look. It looks amazing.Wix
Wow — Stunning! Fresh! Instant! Amazing!
We’d all like some of that, right? So how does she do it?
Karlie Kloss updates her website photos with pics from her Instagram account. Great! People love them. Each one she posts has several thousand “hearts.” And those same people take a look at her website.
Awesome. Instant visitors. All eight million of them.
Yep. Karlie Kloss has eight million followers on Instagram.
Well, there’s your mom, and your aunt Matilda. Your dad sometimes checks in too, and your BFF.
Sometimes they even share your blog. Pride, you see. It’s what makes families tick.
But then what?
Here’s the problem. You’re not Karlie Kloss. Of course, you’re important in your own world, but your own world doesn’t quite extend to the eight million Instagram followers she commands.
And if you don’t have the knowledge to reach more than your immediate circle? Well, your Wix website sits there, no doubt looking lovely, waiting for people to find it.
The solution? Become Karlie Kloss. In your own world, with your own passion, and your own followers.
How is that even possible? Read on…
What’s Wrong With Wix?
Wix, and other website-building platforms, do a good job in their own way. They give you the ability to publish a website or blog — complete with images — and do it quickly.
The problem for the rest of us?
It’s not how we can set up a website or start a blog. That part’s easy. It’s about how we can find a topic (also called a niche) that people are looking for and that we have a real passion for. That part, done properly, is not quick. Not as easy as picking a nice design and a cute name. It takes time.
And then here comes the next problem: how we actually drive traffic to that digital destination. Traffic — people who are interested enough in the subject to want to stick around.
People who, ultimately, trust us enough to want to buy products we recommend.
The greatest obstacle to both those things?
Unrealistic expectations, often spread by exactly the kind of ads Wix and other website-building platforms use.
In particular, expectations of the kind of revenue you can expect to see in 30 days, 90 days, 6 months — even 12 months after starting your efforts.
All those messages from all those ads, on and offline, selling books, workshops, coaching programs. The promises to get your website or blog not just published, but generating thousands of dollars within a week or two.
Here’s a word of advice. They’re scammers. Ignore them.
It is possible to make money with Google Adsense, affiliate marketing, and any number of blog monetization strategies. But long-term success comes from long-term vision, persistence and hard work.
It’s what we at Solo Build It! call “BAM.”
Brain: having knowledge about a particular subject, and the willingness never to stop learning about it.
Attitude: having a passion, an excitement, for a subject — and for developing a business from it. And optimism in knowing it can be done.
Motivation: accepting that building a business — unlike building a website or a blog — not only doesn’t happen overnight but can come with setbacks and disappointments. And having the persistence to keep going.
Does Traffic Necessarily Equal Success?
Most solopreneurs start businesses to fulfill important life goals, and it’s those that they equate with “success.” You may recognize some of them…
- I wish I had just enough extra income to see more of the world.
- I’d like to save enough money to fund college.
- I’d like to quit the day job and replace that income.
- I want to feel in charge of my life, not be a “wage slave” to someone else.
- I want to supplement my retirement to ensure the same or better standard of living.
Big or small, these are goals with emotional impact. And they’re great motivators.
That is real success. Generating profits from a business is how we can achieve those goals.
But to truly document success, we need hard data that can be verified by anyone. Those “soft” goals are impossible to verify, and without a substantial income, they would be close to impossible for ordinary people to achieve anyway.
So maybe using money is a good way to measure success?
The problem with using finance as a success factor is that it’s impossible to get reliable data. Website owners would have to be willing to give up this information (and most of them aren’t) — and even then, how could it be verified? Demanding access to bank accounts? Would you give your bank details to a stranger?
Traffic, though, is easier to measure — and it’s proportionate to income. Why? Because without visitors, how does any site or blog make money? It’s a ghost town. It may have nice shop windows, but no one’s there to buy the goods.
While high traffic is not an absolute guarantee of financial success, you can’t earn much without it. You’d be amazed at the number of sensational-looking sites that get no traffic.
In general, the higher your traffic, the greater your income. Getting lots of site visitors means you can pitch products and services to lots of people — and start an email list for even more marketing opportunities. That said…
There are some sites with low traffic and high monetization. A Hollywood real estate agent, for example, does not need many visitors to her site to make a good income.
And high-traffic sites with low income also exist. Sites that over-rely on passive methods of monetization, for example. Or sites that do a “hard sell” — flashing ads everywhere, but no quality information.
Generally speaking, though, the more targeted traffic you have, the more income you make.
No traffic = no income.
How to Evaluate “Success Stories”?
Let’s suppose you’re interested in starting an online business. How can you possibly choose between platforms? How can you evaluate each one’s “success”?
Well, you could look at claims of income. Screenshots of bank accounts and Amazon checks can look impressive.
Beware that kind of “proof.” Checks and bank account details can easily be faked — and often are. Sometimes it seems that fakery is everywhere we turn.1
How about those wonderful life-changing stories? Well, they too are easy to make up.
Except if you can see the one thing that can’t be faked — the domain name of the success story. Why is that important?
Because if you have the domain name, you have the ability to verify its traffic using SimilarWeb and SEMrush.
The reality is you won’t be able to do that with most website-building platforms. They claim success but don’t show that kind of evidence.
Want to see how this was done in a series of studies carried out comparing Solo Build It! with well-known website builders? No problem — here’s the summary.
Bottom line on “Success Stories”? If they don’t come with a domain name, ignore them.
I Have a Website or Blog. How Do I Build Traffic?
Today, we’re faced with a plethora of disinformation and misinformation, crafted and concocted by clever minds looking more to extract money from you than help you to earn it. That latest “proven traffic system” that you just plopped down $997 for isn’t going to bring you the results you expected. That new video series by the latest raving internet marketer on how you can drive “unlimited” traffic to your website? Nope. That isn’t going to work either.2
The best way to a successful business is by growing organic (that is, free) traffic. The trade-off? Time.
And since your time is precious and can only be used once, it represents a significant cost, depending on your knowledge and skill.
Which is where the difference in platforms enters the equation.
There’s nothing wrong with Wix. Or Squarespace. Or any of the other platforms that tell you it’s easy to build a website.
The real issue is — then what? Once you have a nice website and a cute name, where do you go when you want to build a business that produces some income? Can you sort it all out for yourself?
There’s no doubt, some people do. They scour the internet, looking for ways to get that elusive traffic. They buy books — expensive courses, even. They squirrel away bits of information from here, more bits from there.
Sometimes they get lucky and find quality information. Most times, though, they struggle. What’s good? What’s not-good-but-not-altogether-bad? What’s a downright scam? How do you tell the difference?
You can look at reviews, of course. But many of them are fake.3
And anyway — do you have that kind of time? Or that kind of knowledge? Take a look again at the kinds of traffic Solo Build It! sites get. Then ask yourself: how is that even possible?
What does work when it comes to finding traffic?
You could, of course, buy traffic. But there’s a steep learning curve and it requires you, the solopreneur, to have a product with a high enough margin to justify the expense.
Most of us just starting out have neither the knowledge nor the money. After all, we want to start a business to make additional income, not suck it away!
And buying traffic does not buy trust. Trust comes with time, and effort. It comes with engagement: knowing what your customers’ problems and needs are, and genuinely wanting to help make their lives better, happier.
Growing free traffic is the answer.
Not only is it free, it can accommodate all types of monetization, from the lower-paying passive income models like AdSense and affiliate programs to higher-paying, more active models such as creating and selling your own product.
The same amount of traffic can generate different amounts of income depending on that monetization mix, but that’s a choice that reflects the goal. Whatever your mix may be, it’s fair to say that your income will be proportional to your traffic. And your traffic will be proportional to your content.
Why? Because reaching your customer with accurate information she can trust, presented in your own unique voice, will make her want to return, again and again and again.
So it’s always best practice to use your time and energy to produce the best, most authentic, most engaging content you can. Find out what your visitors’ problems are — and then show them how your knowledge and expertise can unlock the solution for them in a way no one else can.
Meet their needs. Write in your own voice about what your visitors care about, not what you think they should care about. Become their “go-to” place — the place they can trust.
This all still revolves around having good, honest, legit content that’s smartly written and well presented too. That old mantra of content is king still holds true, even for retail sites.
Some customers simply look for the cheapest price, but the smart customers gravitate towards sites they can trust — and that includes information published about products and services available.4
Does Social Media Traffic Count?
Build it, and they will come” only works in the movies. Social media is a build it, nurture it, engage them, and they may come — and stay. Seth Godin
More and more, social media is seen as a critical way of driving traffic to any website or blog. The internet is full of articles about why and how you should be driving traffic from social media.
Sites like Facebook and Twitter allow your followers to identify themselves by interests, making the targeting opportunities mind-boggling.
But like growing an online business, social media is not an overnight sensation. It takes work, and time.
Increasing your social media traffic happens when you engage and build relationships on each network. Being readily available for customers, brand loyalists and potential buyers, it helps you nurture these people through the purchasing process.5
Unless you’re Karlie Kloss, the social traffic you command will take time to build.
And then there’s the issue of the quality of site visitors…
Site Visitors: What Makes a Difference?
With apologies to George Orwell, let’s start with a paraphrase of his famous quote…
All traffic is equal. But some traffic is more equal than others.
It’s not only about the number of content pages you write. It’s not even only about how much traffic those pages send to your website.
It’s also about what they do when they get there.
Let’s look at a real-life example. This is a successful SBI! website.6 Its peak months, according to Google Analytics, run at over 200,000 visits per month — around 5,000 rising to 7,000 per day.
Its social media traffic for the same time period is good…
But the time readers spend on site, and the number of pages they look at while there, tell a different story…
Lower session numbers from YouTube (199 sessions) nevertheless result in an average time on site of 2 minutes 46 seconds, compared to 1 minute 11 seconds (Pinterest, from 8,171 sessions) and 57 seconds (Facebook, from 2,990 sessions).
You’ll see it all the time. Before they’ll look at partnering with you, Influencers or marketing companies want to know how many Twitter or Insta followers, Facebook fans or Pinterest monthly unique viewers you have.
It may be nice to watch those followers and traffic numbers soar. But if none of them are interested enough in the information they find to stick around long enough to click on your ads, buy your affiliate products or engage with your own services or products, what’s the point?
How do you establish what’s “good quality” traffic? How do you work out the “value per visitor”? And how do you convince them to spend more time on your site, look at more pages and ultimately purchase from you?
The potential for monetization is unquestionably there — but how do you capitalize on it? What kind of content combined with what kind of traffic combined with what kind of products or services delivers the most income?
So it’s not just traffic. It’s targeted traffic, plus targeted, highest quality content that leads to maximum revenue potential.
That is the real key to a successful online business.
In some ways, it’s not rocket science. But not everyone out there understands the relationship between your traffic — the real people with real lives and real problems they want help with — and the information you provide on your website. It’s a critical step.
Marketers call it “improving your conversion rate.” We call it serving each site visitor.
So — Will They Come?
If you build it, they will come.Field of Dreams, 1989
We’d all like to be transported into Wix and Karlie Kloss’s world of instant stardom. We’d all like to live the good life — whatever dream that conjures up for you.
We’d like to think that all we need to do is build a truly lovely website, and wait for those visitors to flock to it, and click on our ads, and buy our products.
Sadly, for most of us, life’s not like that.
Success comes not through good looks, but through hard work. Hard work, combined with the tools to help you do a good job.
So if all you want is to put up a website and share it with your mom, Aunt Matilda and your BFF, by all means — look elsewhere.
On the other hand, if you want to reach the kind of audience who will find you online, spend time getting to know and trust you, and make of your website a real life online business, take a look at the studies and the real-life people who provide you with the proof.
And then — come join us. You’ll be glad you did.