Ask Business 2.0

Search gurus' tips for landing big traffic on a small budget; how Web designers can retain their edge over simple publishing tools.

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Q. My website, which aggregates deals on travel and electronics, isn't getting much traffic from Google AdWords. How do I market my site and generate traffic on a small budget? - Kamlesh Patel, Director,

A. Let's start with the most important thing: a good product or service. It sounds obvious, but all the traffic in the world won't convert to paying customers if there's nothing good to buy. " needs unique content if it is going to compete with the larger services," says Aaron Wall, who literally wrote the book on search engine optimization (see Find a niche - extreme travel, for example - write about it on your site, and offer relevant travel deals. The same goes for electronic goods.

If you clear that first hurdle, Dave Feller, vice president for marketing at StumbleUpon, has a few suggestions for maximizing free traffic. Try joining online communities or creating widgets that are distributed on sites like Facebook. Free content-distribution networks like StumbleUpon and Digg are also good channels. Viral marketing can be extremely effective, so encourage customers who have had a good experience with your site to spread the word through coupons and other incentives.

When you enter the world of paid marketing, hone your search engine campaigns. Your site is in a competitive field, so find out exactly what is and isn't working. "The number of keywords, match type, ad copy, bid amounts, and landing pages all affect marketing ROI," says Ken Li, CEO of Multilytics, an Internet marketing firm. "If you don't know how to track this, hiring a consultant or search-engine marketing company is a good investment."

After you get visitors, you need to turn them into customers. Track how many people are actually doing what you want, Feller says. How are they getting to your site? Where do they get stuck? How can you get users to stick around longer? The answers will help you figure out how to get traffic and make it pay.

Q. Are simple Web publishing tools pushing the average designer out the window? - Ryan, Seattle, WA

A. If you're a Web designer, you're more likely to lose clients to foreign competitors than to Web publishing tools like Weebly or SynthaSite. Yes, these programs have significantly lowered the bar for the technically challenged, making it easy to set up a page in a matter of minutes. They're great for first-time users and small-time entrepreneurs.

But to get to the next level in the competitive Web 2.0 market, they'll need a unique site, not cookie-cutter pages from prepackaged programs. They'll need an easy-to-navigate, high-quality homepage to build brand identity - which only a Web designer can provide.

"There's a lot of hand-holding, and it doesn't pay as much as corporate gigs, but small business is a huge market," says Adrian Chan, a design consultant for sites like GoingOn,, and Microsoft Live.

The biggest threat that designers face today is not from Web software but from competitors in Eastern Europe and South America. "You may quote a job at $10,000, but your client has $3K in his mind," Chan says. "You hear these low rates from offshore competitors, and people get it in their heads that that's all they're willing to pay. But we still have one edge over foreign competitors - we're local." Top of page

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