Getting search engine traffic to a new web site

If you search for “family link” or “familylink” on Google, the first hit is not www.familylink.com. Today, on the query “familylink”, hits #5, 7, 8, 9, and 10 all refer to FamilyLink.com, but they are from blogs and press releases. Google is not yet ranking FamilyLink.com as the most relevant result for these queries. I’m sure that will change soon, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

When you’ve been working at a web company that has had its web site up for many years, has good PageRank, good titles and internal links, and has many incoming links that have come in steadily over the years from press coverage, bloggers, customer links, and so forth, you sometimes take for granted the huge flow of new customers that come without cost from natural search engine rankings.

I have been involved with and seen web sites that get free search engine traffic worth the equivalent of millions of dollars of paid clicks/sponsored links.

But with any new web site, it takes time for users to create content, and for people to link to your site and to deep link to your user content. It takes time for the virtuous circle of more users posting more content generating more users (from search engines) to really kick in.

And when you have seen it work so beautifully before, and it is not working now, it is hard to be patient. But you just have to wait.

Fortunately, you can join Google Webmaster Tools and Yahoo Site Explorer and get validated by them as the site owner, and see your site through the eyes of their bots–how often they come back, how many pages they index, what your top rankings are on various keywords.

But that still doesn’t get you all the incoming links you need from authentic sources over a long period of time so that you can have a robust amount of natural search engine traffic.

That does take time.

Today, if you search for just about any keyword or phrase that might eventually help you find our familylink.com social network, such as the names of more than a hundred thousand cities and towns around the world, or millions of surnames from around the world, or the specific names of ancestors who might have pages on our site, you probably won’t find our web site yet using Google, Yahoo, or MSN.

So we really have to rely on email, the blogosphere, press announcements (including a couple of big ones coming up), and a little paid search to get our intial users. Then we will see more and more member invitations to other genealogists and family members, as our viral marketing efforts start to grow.

Years ago Yahoo had a Paid Inclusion program which didn’t make sense to me when most of the sites I was working on were included in their natural search for free. But I guess I didn’t think about using Paid Inclusion out of necessity for a free site.

Can some SEO expert out there tell me how they have used Paid Inclusion in a way that is worthwhile, particularly for a brand new site?

I’m tired of looking at my Omniture Site Catalyst referring domains report and seeing almost no traffic from Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

I am however happy to see our WorldVitalRecords.com traffic growing steadily, since that is where our company’s revenue comes from. We are getting more and more natural search engine traffic there since our number of databases grow every day and our site has been up for nearly a year.

Some people say the one year mark is magical for natural search engine traffic. Has anyone had an experience that validates this, or is that just an urban legend?

9 Comments

  1. Paul, one problem you might have is that the majority of your content is in the supplemental results. Call/email me and we can talk about it if you’d like.

    I always do a pretty thorough PPC campaign when I kick start a web site, especially a newly registered domain (good job registering for 9 years). Not only does it bring traffic but it contributes to branding and gets your name in the tops of people’s minds, especially if they do 2 queries that show your ads. With one of my companies I started the PPC campaign and about 2-3 weeks after that we had a client call that said he was “referred” to us by someone else, who I am sure wasn’t one of our few clients at that time, but probably just saw our ad keep popping up.

    I would also start building some backlinks, and I have another good idea for you that you might find interesting (call/email me).

  2. I recommend listing your site in all of these paid directories. Do a few a week. Go to the bottom of the page. It gives a list of traffic by search engine, PR, and cost.
    Make sure to use your main keywords in the title tag. Also, if you’re selling a product, list in the shopping category. Choose the right catagory.
    Some SEOs (I’m not one) are against submitting to directories, but for a new site, I think it’s a good idea.

    In case your comments don’t accept HTML:
    http://www.seocompany.ca/directory/web-directories.html

    Best,
    Janet

  3. Three sources of answers for you:

    – Matt Cutts –
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3494613828170903728

    http://www.linkedin.com answers –
    Ask the question there, I have found some great SEO consultants who work with large corps there.

    – Eric Ward’s URL Wire –
    http://www.urlwire.com/
    He had been in the industry since the beginning of time. He has major media contacts on his URL Wire site. Its specific purpose is to announce new websites to the media and related sources. Getting picked up by the NY Times for example would really help!!

  4. One interesting thing is how much time and effort is put into SEO and how little time is spent on conversion. I mean what’s the point of having thousands of visitors if you can’t convert them into customers. That’s where a company like ours comes in. We offer Trust Seals that help visitors feel more confident which increases conversion. However, we wouldn’t have a business without PPC traffic. And, right now we are working hard on getting free traffic, so your information has been very helpful thanks Paul!

  5. Google Supplemental Results Index Info

    here is the query to find your supplemental pages on Google (for everyone but Paul who is interested, he obviously doesn’t need it):

    site:www.example.com ***-sljktf

    Here is the best source of Data on the subject I have found to date, it is also the most recent. It is still a hot topic for us SEOmoz addicts:

    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-i-escaped-googles-supplemental-hell
    How I Escaped Google’s Supplemental Hell

    sometimes using a 410 error is better than using a 404. It tells the bots that the page has been permanently moved and not to spider it again:
    http://www.checkupdown.com/status/E410.html

    And finally a word an official article (not a member blog) written by special guests and the SEOmoz team. Well its really more like a survey:

    http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors#f51
    “Duplicate Title/Meta Tags on Many Pages 3.3

    High Importance
    1.3

    Highly Disputed

    Aaron Wall
    Duplicate content filters are getting tougher. If a site does not have much content and has excessive duplication it not only suppresses rankings, but it may also get many pages thrown in the supplemental results.

    Chris Boggs
    Seems to be the number one way into supplementals, at least for now.

    Rae Hoffman
    Every page should always, always, always have a unique title tag.

    Marcus Tandler
    welcome to the supplemental index…”

  6. Steve Amundsen

    I have briefly reviewed your new site. There are many things that need to be done so that the search engines will crawl, index and rank your site. Unfortunately, almost all of these things have not been done on your site. The comments to date have not addressed these issues. It will do you no good to spend the money on paid inclusion. That would be the very last step of the process.

    I just came across your blog. I live in Provo and have been an Internet marketing consultant for more than twelve years…B.G. (Before Google). I would be happy to sit down with you and discuss the relevant issues that are more than this space allows. I can show you the success my clients have had by implementing a comprehensive optimization strategy.

  7. Adam Torkildson

    Hi Paul,
    Dave Bascom would know the answer. He’s the owner of Web Targeted, an SEO company in Lehi. He’s been doing search marketing for about 9 years.

  8. Dave Bascom

    O.K. I’ll take the bait (thanks a lot Adam). I don’t have all the answers, but I have a few thoughts. The short answer is to be patient and focus on building the best possible community for genealogy and the search engine traffic will follow. Be sure your site is optimized using best practices–and the right keywords. You can also give it a little push with directories like Janet suggested or other types of links, but it seems like the site will generate a lot of buzz just by its nature as a collaborative community. Good public relations can REALLY help get the ball moving as well.

    About paid inclusion, I haven’t done much with it for years, but I have heard some people are happy with it. I just have a hard time paying for positions/traffic that everyone else is getting for free. I remember when every search engine and their dog had a paid inclusion program (except Google), but now the only paid inclusion program worth anything is Yahoo’s. You could try it out if you’re not seeing any kind of success the “old fashioned” way.

    I don’t think there’s anything magical about a year old site, that’s just an anecdotal myth. I’ve seen sites a few months old just kicking butt in the search engines. Sure, it takes longer than it used to, but if your site gets tons of links, the search engines will notice and reward you accordingly.

    Also, when you say search engines, I assume you mean Google, because a #1 position in MSN just doesn’t do much for you in terms of traffic unless it’s a huge search term. Yahoo’s a little better, but still a huge underdog to the big G in terms of search volume. If you haven’t already done so, get a Google webmaster account. That will let you see a more clear picture of how Google sees your site–closer to true number of backlinks, crawl errors, and you can also submit your xml sitemap so Googlebot will have no excuses for not finding every page of your site. Webmaster Central won’t help you rank better per se, but it could give some clues into what Google knows about your site.

  9. John Lynn

    Paul,
    I’d love to have you take a look at an idea I have called the Marketing Mob. It’s competing in an idea competition called Idea Warz http://ideawarz.cambrianhouse.com/tournament/matchup/132

    You have to understand the Cambrian House concept to understand my Marketing Mob idea and how I’m able to build a mob of marketing resources. However, once it’s built it could be a great way for something like Family Link to build traffic, seo optimization, etc.

    I’d love to hear your feedback.

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