How to Attract Website Visitors in the AI Era

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Whether your site is a content site, an affiliate site or even an ecommerce venture, your lifeline is always site visitors. Creating a great site is only the first step. Your job also includes making sure your potential audience gets to see your site.

As an online publisher who specializes in informational content, I like to think of my websites as magazines. As publishers, we take care to create beautiful magazines filled to the brim with helpful information. But unless we place those magazines where our readers can see them, no one will ever leaf through our glossy pages.

It's our job to figure out where the virtual newsstands are and how to approach them so that our magazines are prominently displayed.

Related: How Digital Marketers Can Prepare for the Changes AI-Powered Search Engines Will Bring

Search engines as newsstands

Traditionally, search engines such as Google were the largest and most effective “newsstand” for online magazines.

Our readers would actively approach a search engine and look for needed information. The search engine — almost always Google — would then check what's in stock and present them with a few good options. If your magazine were good enough, Google would place it prominently on display for that search query.

With the advent of generative AI, that relationship is fast changing. Google is transitioning into providing generative search results. Having trained it on reading our magazines, it now places a robot in front of the newsstand and lets that robot reply to people's questions instead of showing them magazines.

Google's new approach has many issues that legislators and regulators should hopefully address.

Meanwhile, website owners who rely solely on Google for site visitors face a growing problem.

Related: 5 Tactics to Drive Website Traffic That Aren't SEO

Diversifying traffic sources is paramount

The old adage of “not putting all your eggs in one basket” is more true now than ever. Over the last few years, many website owners have become reliant on search engines to drive traffic to their sites.

Google was such a robust and effective newsstand that focusing marketing efforts on SEO made sense. But now it's time to diversify traffic sources.

Fortunately, we have alternatives. Here are a few actionable suggestions:

1. Social media

Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (X), Pinterest and TikTok draw billions of users every day. By offering attractive chunks of content that resonate with your potential audience, you can effectively showcase your website. If the content matches their intent and interests, some of them will visit your site.

With the added benefit of your posts going viral, social media can become a major source of traffic for many websites.

2. Paid advertising

If you are confident in your business's return on investment per visitor, paid advertising could be a viable way to sustain it. Whether through Google Ads, Facebook Ads or another paid channel, you could attract hyper-focused visitors who are likely to turn into leads.

3. Content marketing on other channels

For some businesses, this can be a good time to explore more traditional channels. Possible options include sponsoring local nonprofits, networking with colleagues and developing collaborations.

If you're looking for inspiration, let me share a story from pre-Google days. In an effort to promote a content website about the topic, I created printed material promoting the spaying and neutering of cats. I then encouraged site visitors to print out these brochures and place them in various locations frequented by pet owners.

While visitors were hard to track, for years to come, we would get messages from people saying that they found out about our site from a brochure at their veterinarian's office or local pet groomer.

4. A newsletter

Curating emails from your users into a robust mailing list is now an essential part of site marketing. Regardless of your traffic source, you should attempt to capture your visitors' email addresses. Then, utilize those emails by sending out a newsletter.

This newsletter can be a very effective way to reconnect with your visitors and get them to revisit your site. If you have an affiliate or ecommerce site, your mailing list can be the vehicle for offering discounts, coupons and other ways of converting visitors into customers.

And if your current traffic levels are too low to grow your mailing list effectively, you can boost your efforts using lead ads on various platforms.

Related: Enhance Your Website's Visibility and Dominate Your Competition With These Powerful Techniques

Search engines are not be-all-and-end-all traffic generators

Over the last few months, many website owners have felt the impact of Google algorithm changes and their transition into an AI-driven answer engine.

As a web publisher myself and as the President of the Web Publishers Association, I feel their pain.

But it's important to remember that Google is not the only newsstand out there. Our audiences walk by multiple newsstands daily — in the form of social media platforms. What's more, we have the power to turn them into subscribers who get our magazines right into their email boxes.

It's time to get creative and develop new marketing strategies and skills to find new and innovative ways to reach our audiences. Pivoting a business is never easy, but it's what site owners need to do in 2024.



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