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Need assistance in growing my site traffic

Posted on 2009-05-14
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Last Modified: 2012-05-07
I have a dining and nightlife website thats local to the Boston area and the surrounding towns. Its been up and running for awhile now, but the site traffic sucks (~10-20 unique users a day, not including search spiders). Being more of a techie, the marketing thing is proving to be quite difficult for me. I've done SEO, offered money in the form of contests, told everyone and their mothers about it, and yet I cant get it to grow.

The majority of our hits comes from google SERPS, certain establishments we rank in the top 5 so I think im doing something right regarding that aspect. The problem is, a user will come to a restaurant or bars main page, get the info they need, then leave. I'm in the process of adding a new fetaure on these pages that suggest similiar establishments to the user, in hopes that they may navigate the site a bit more. Other than that, im not sure what else to do...

the site is www.QuestingStone.com

Any help or suggestions is greatly appreciated!
Josh
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Question by:Big Monty
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by:kyodai
kyodai earned 100 total points
ID: 24389899
Well there are many measures you could do - the question here is - what traffic would you want?

Generally most sites want search engine traffic, this is generally good if you dont care what users find your site, if you get income by site advertising this is ideal. However in your case you will most likely rather want people from Boston to view your site, as it's cool when someone from china views your website but it will most probably not become a frequent customer. So it is quite useless to just attract search engines (and their traffic) by adding content like mad, it still should all be about local stuff from boston, i would not recommend content farming with blind topics here.

So you probably are rather for quite well aimed hits, most preferably people that searched for a restaurant in Boston or something similar.

So a good free tactics would be to get your site URL out as often as possible with the words "Boston restaurant" close to it, so people who enter "Restaurant Boston" or "Boston restaurant" in google will end up with your site as one of the first hits.

An important decision is what keywords to promote, whenever a link to your site appears your most important keywords should be near that link. The free tactic is to simply post on as many websites as popular like "Hey visit my Site about Restaurants in Boston, i am sure you will like it. http://www.bostondiner.com" or similar. Keep in mind that many sittes regard this as spam, so the more subtile the link is placed and the more naiive the text is, the more likely your post with that link will not get deleted as spam. This is the guerilla tactics which is disencouraged by google.

However, the "pay sites" that take money to place your link aren't much better with the difference you pay real money or put a link on your site to get your link placed on theirs. A blackhat tactic is to sign up for many of such "directories" that require a backlink and put it on some trash website you only have for backlinks that is only linked from a tiny or invisible link of your real site (some sites check if the link containing page is reachable through your frontpage).
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by:kyodai
ID: 24389914
Otherwise you caan also check some other local boston sites and ask them to add a link to your site. Most will ask for a backlink though. Otherwise only the pay-sharks are left, but be carefull about such sites, there are many scammers that take much money and promise many hits, but send you crap traffic from china, automated hits or misleading linkss.
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Graphixer earned 300 total points
ID: 24390465
Forgive me for saying so, but the site itself needs some more work before you can begin to think about growing traffic.  Quickly...
  • The site says "Questing Stone is all about its community.", but the look and feel of your site isn't about community at all, it's about search.  
  • I don't see where there's any 'community' other than reviews?  No discussion forums?  No user posts?
  • Your logo dominates the top section of the site.  People don't care about logos, they care about finding something quickly.  Emphasize the search.
  • Why would you need to enter your state for a local search?
  • The text says "...then click submit", but the button is actually labeled "Search", and is way down at the bottom of the page.
  • There must be a more logical way of searching than all these check boxes and drop downs.  There's almost too much going on here, and it can be arranged in a more user-friendly way (see first paragraph below).
  • The design looks a bit dated, like something from 1999 rather than 2009.  I would recommend a sans-serif typeface, less drop shadow, a more unified color scheme, less marbling and more compactness of the text and boxes.  Sorry to be harsh, but design is very important to give you a professional look.  It doesn't have to be fancy...think about getting as close to 'Google-style' simplicity and usability as possible.
  • kyodai is right.  Search-wise, the words "Boston" and "restaurant" should be all over this site, especially in the <title>.
  • You've done a good job getting Google to index each listing, but you might rework each <title> to reflect the name of the area or establishment.  Google heavily gauges what's in the <title>.
If I were testing this interface, I would have friends of mine (who didn't know the site very well) come over, one at a time, and give them a few tasks to do on the site, like; 'find Indian food in Andover', or 'find the closest Irish pub'.  Sit behind them and watch what they do.  You can learn a lot by seeing how they accomplish a task, and how you can best streamline the interface.

If you haven't already done so, a little opposition research might be in order.  What other sites have similar listings, and what do people like and dislike about those sites?  Is there even a market for a dining / nightlife site, or are these areas more than adequately covered by sites like boston.com?

Also, the name of the site.  "Questing Stone" seems to me more about intellectual knowledge and homework.  Yuck.  :-)  Dining and nightlife is supposed to be about having fun and relaxing.  Perhaps you can re-brand or retool to reflect a more laid-back, less rigid feel?  A logo that has the word "stone" in it doesn't necessarily have to look like it's made of stone.

A web site is like any other business.  You can market yourself like crazy and get hundreds of people in the door, but if you don't have what they're looking for, they'll turn right around and likely never come back.

I hope this helps.
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Assisted Solution

by:Tiggerito
Tiggerito earned 100 total points
ID: 24397180
I can't add much to Graphixer's and kyodai's excelent comments.

Make sure every page has a unique and relevent title element
Make sure every page has a unique and relevent keywords meta tag
Make sure every page has a unique and relevent keywords meta description

research the key word used in your market and use them in your titles, meta tags, headings and content.

As your localised. Look into submitting to Google Local for yourself and your clients

http://www.google.com/local

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by:Big Monty
ID: 24400606
thx to all that responded, my responses are below:

kyodai:
in all of my research in SEO, i've come across your ideas of posting my url to other sites a few times and everything i've read about it basically says the same things as you, to do it is spam and is often penalized, and to do it subtle enough is quite tricky, and im not sure how i would go about doing it. i havent been able to find many forums dedicated to dining and nightlife other than boston.com, which i have posted on (even though they're technically a competitior).

graphixer:
no need to apologize for offering your opinion, even if it is what i dont want to hear (actually, its exactly what i was looking for, all of my friends whom i've showed the site to have offered only positive feedback. while nice to hear, it doesnt really help). your first point really surprised me. QS is about the community, as all entries are submitted by users, and i found it kind of surprising that you didnt recognize this. i dont mean this in a negative way, i truly was surprised and i think the main intro text will need to make this a bit more clear. also, my partner and i had visions of adding different sections, such as one for real estate, one for people, etc, and thats where the community theme comes in.

Why would you need to enter your state for a local search? - while in my original post i said this was for the boston area, it is built to be a national database, where you can search in any state, and we do have listings in other states. i just want my marketing to target the boston area as thats where the majority of listings are. my apologies for not being clearer on that.

i like your idea of having some friends test out the site while i watch. as for my competition, the big ones are yelp, citysearch, and boston.com. i have no idea what people like/dislike about these sites, other than the few people i've asked. how would i find out?

as far as the name and the look and feel, i've had a wide range of people tell me different things, from its out dated to its not pretty enough to it looks good because its simple. i would be interested (and most appreciative) if people who read this thread could respond to what they think of the design of the site. I'm not a designer (no artistic sense) and i didnt have much say on the design of it.

Tiggerrito -
i'm going to check out that link and play around with that. could be quite useful :)

Cheers
Josh
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Expert Comment

by:Graphixer
ID: 24416675
Thanks Big Daddy, I'm glad you found my post helpful.


Regarding regions; it's a bit confusing gearing yourself up to be a national database while only carrying listings for one region.  If I seach for restaurants in Oregon, I get zero listings, so 'OR' probably shouldn't be an option in your state listings.  I think you should either be a national site or a local site...pick one or another.  Or, set up 'sitelets' that focus on particular regions.  Again, if someone visits and you come up short, they'll likely never return.


Regarding competition; while you're watching people use your site, you could pick your top five competitors and assign the same tasks to those people while browsing those sites.

Unfortunately, you're in a saturated market.  In addition to the sites you mentioned, you've also got sites like zagat.com, menupages.com, restaurantrow.com, restaurant.com, dinesite.com, atfood.com, diningguide.com...all of these already have national directories of restaurants.  And I found tons of restaurant sites geared to the Boston area specifically.

You'll need to play up the uniqueness of your site (detailed search) and make that search as easy as possible for someone to quickly understand.  If community is also going to be a focus, make sure that's played up more.  Maybe a sample member review feed on the home page?  Maybe RSS feeds for each restaurant, so memebers can subscribe to specific restaurants and be notified of new reviews?


Regarding 'community'; I typically think about users interactingwith each other as community, rather than simply building a database ofrestaurants and reviews.  Maybe I'm missing something as anon-member, so perhaps the community aspects could be made more obviousto causal readers?

I would be tempted to rebrand as a user-supported restaurant database,maybe along the lines of imdb.com as far as functionality goes?  Or maybe something more like awikipedia.com for dining and nightlife, where users have total control over therestaurant listings.  Something like this would be unique and differentiate you from the competition.  

To be successful in most enterprises, you typically have to be first, most unique, or the best.  Any combination of the three would be unstopable.  Pick one or two and see what you can come up with.
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by:Big Monty
ID: 31581699
thanks everyone for their feedback!
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