SEO Basics: How to Drive Traffic to Your Website for Little to No Money

Do you have a website but aren’t getting any traffic? Heard of SEO but aren’t sure where to start?

You might have heard buzz around SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or Google rankings and how you need to have it already. But what’s the hype all about?

Here we distill the concept of SEO into digestible, business-relevant bits and share the four key elements to any effective SEO strategy so you can bring in more website traffic with little to no cash.

long line of people waiting in front of a store

Let’s start at the top: What are you trying to accomplish? Yes, you’re trying to drive more people to your website.

But why?

That depends on your business. Reasons include more sales, customers, brand awareness, clicks for some payout, or to prove your organizational reach for funding purposes.

Your why is important to your SEO strategy, so get clear on your end goals.

Where SEO Fits in a Typical Funnel

I like to think of the overall flow of moving people from your overall market down to your end goal like the following drawing. It simplifies the process and makes the steps clearer so you can craft strategy around each piece drawing the general public down to your specific end goal.

diagram from market to webpage traffic to end goal

The Market

Your market includes everyone who could be a potential customer. These are people who may know they need what you offer and are actively looking for it and also those who are just learning about your industry and figuring out how it might help them.

Webpage Traffic

This is SEO speak for people that window shop your business (online). These are people in your market who have somehow found you online and have accessed your website (or social media page).

Goal Completion

These are your buyers, the traffic that turned into paying customers. If you’re a nonprofit, you have two customers: the primary customers receiving your service, and your secondary customers that monetarily support your work (aka donors/investors).

You might have a different definition of “customer”, but the idea is the same: these are people that have fulfilled your end goal.

google analytics screen shot of dashboard

Winning at SEO

When we talk about SEO, we are talking about using search engine results to move people from your Market to become your website Traffic. That is, when people search for something related to your business, your website comes up in the search results and ideally towards the top of the search (a top “ranking” or “position”).

Then people click on your website and—boom!—become your Traffic, one step closer toward becoming a customer (or your specific end goal)!

Having a top position in strategic online searches is crucial to being found by potential customers. That’s why there’s so much focus around optimizing search engine position (aka SEO). Sounds great!

So, how do you optimize your position?

Here are the four key elements to any SEO strategy, without getting too down in the weeds.

  1. Craft a Dynamic Keyword Strategy

    Keywords are what people search for. They can be short, like “kite”, and long, like “how to fly a kite in hurricane level winds safely by the Columbia River”. Essentially, they capture the question of the searcher and require a little mind-reading on the part of the search engine.

    Back in the day, it was good enough to focus on a list of short keywords to get found. Now, with increased keyword competition and the sheer volume of info on the web, it’s important to have longer, more focus keywords, called “long-tail” keywords.

    Picking the (likely long) list of keywords to target is an important, ongoing effort. You can start with keywords you’d use to find yourself, research competitors, or ask potential customers about their burning questions.

    Make sure that your list includes achievable keywords that aren’t too competitive and that you also target every step on your customer’s journey from discovering you and researching to becoming a repeat customer.

  2. Build Useful Content to Match Your Target Searcher’s Questions

    Search engines want to provide a searcher with exactly what they’re looking for in a single click. So, they match a searcher’s keywords with webpage content that (hopefully) best answers their question. You want to create that page for each of your target keywords.

    This means generating content: words, images, video, and other media that search engines (and therefore your potential customers) can find. You want to include your target keywords, but only in a natural and non-spammy way. Take it as a chance to be the expert for your potential customers.

  3. Share Your Content So Related and Reputable Sites Link to It

    Just like in “real life”, it helps build your credibility when trustworthy sites refer to your pages, but not when dodgy sites do. So, share all of your great content around to others who would appreciate it.

    Referral traffic is helpful for increasing site traffic in itself, plus it helps your search engine rankings.

  4. Make Sure People Actually Click on Your Search Result

    You could have the best content in the world but won’t rank high for long if no one clicks on your search result. This is where crafting enticing page titles and meta descriptions (the blurbs that search engines and social media show) comes in.

    These 150 characters or so of text are essentially your CLICK HERE! ads for your content. It’s worth it to take the time to make them appealing to click. You might also try out various options, see the effect on clicks (called A/B testing), and pick the most effective version.

many pedestrians crossing a street

Ready for More Traffic?

Now that you’ve identified your end goals and know the four key components of any SEO strategy, you’re ready to dive in and get more eyes on your awesome website!

SEO can be monetarily free, but it’s certainly earned. At first it can seem daunting, but it’s really an ongoing process of refinement and adjustments as your market changes, business adjusts, and your website matures.

Start small with a manageable list of keywords, build and share the content, and refine your meta descriptions. Then add more keywords, rinse, and repeat. With steady effort, you’ll soon have a high-ranking site with loads of traffic without spending a dime.