James Earl Jones Lied to You

“If you build it, they will come.”

Sure, sure, that’s not even the right line,* but much like another often-misquoted (into fans) line of his from Star Wars**, it’s so deeply ingrained in our movie vernacular that changing it now is impossible.

Jones’ character, Terrance Mann, truly believed that Kevin Costner’s corn-field baseball diamond would attract visitors–even if they didn’t know why–helping him stave off bankruptcy and allow him to keep his house.

In the magic world of movies, yes, people will travel to the middle of Iowa for no apparent reason. In reality, though, it’s much harder to make people do anything at all… and that includes visiting your website.


It’s easy to consider pushing a website live as the main hurdle to success online. After all, how can transactions, inquiries, and engagement happen if there’s nowhere for them to do so?

While it is true that having a website is “step 1,” it’s simply the first of many. Viewing a website launch as the end of the process will lead to disappointment and failure.

Just build it, and no one will come.

Having a website isn’t enough anymore. Nowadays, in order to build and maintain traffic, you need to get serious about some (or all) of the following tactics:

Show Up on SERPs

Your placement on SERPs (search engine result pages) is essential to online success, as they have become a main avenue for finding content online. There are two ways you can get your links on a search engine like Google: paid or organic.

The position of paid vs. organic search results on Google

This screenshot illustrates the difference between paid and organically optimized search results. Red is paid, blue is organic.

Paid Search Results

You’ve seen them before: a light yellow box at the top of every Google result page, as well as links down the right side of the page (the red areas in the image above). These are Google’s paid search results. Businesses pay money to have their links show up in these areas for the search terms of their choosing; the more they’re willing to pay per click, the higher the position.

Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns can be great for new websites that have not yet built a strong search presence, and for pushing traffic to limited-time promotions or landing pages.

The downside to paid search? As soon as you stop paying, your link is gone. That’s one reason we view PPC as a great addition to organic SEO, but not standalone SEO strategy.

Organic Search Results

Barring major changes to search algorithms or extensive website changes, organic results don’t suffer from immediate drop-offs like paid results. Lifting a website to the top of the organic search engine results is tougher and much more involved than running a PPC campaign, but the payoff is greater, too.

According to a recent study by Chitika, the website in the #1 position of an average Google SERP (that’s O1 in the blue area above) receives 32.5% of all click-through traffic for the page, compared to 17.6% for position #2, and 11.4% for position #3.

Nearly 1/3 of all searchers are clicking on the top organic result! This shows that we as searchers have a massive amount of trust in the results we’re given by search engines, trust that any serious business can’t afford to ignore. There are still other variables to success (traffic doesn’t mean sales), but that’s one powerful stat.

Another takeaway from the study is that real-estate on Page 1 is almost essential. On average, the results on Page 1 saw 92% of all the traffic, while the numbers for Page 2 dropped to just 4.8%.

Gaining the top organic search results isn’t easy or straightforward, it takes tinkering and time, but once accomplished, it can have long-term positive effects.

We like to compare organic optimization to health and wellness. When your website is well-optimized for organic search, it is in good shape. As long as it is well maintained, staying high on the SERPs is easy. But as soon as you start ignoring your website, it can lose that good standing and be very hard to recover.

Create Content

I discuss content a lot, but it’s not for lack of ideas. Content is extremely important for search engines (it’s the basis for how they work) and for your visitors. Quality content, like blogs and link assets, can help put your site in front of new eyes.


If you’re unaware of the benefits of blogging, you should take some time to read through the archives of this blog and you’ll find multiple articles on the topic.

In short, blogging is a great way to boost the content ‘footprint’ of your website. The main pages of your site should be focused around key topics and questions that potential searchers might be looking for, but there are only so many pages on your site. A blog provides you with an avenue for content that might interest your audience, but that doesn’t fit into the sometimes narrow message of your site. (Do you sell shoes? Create a list of ’10 crazy way to thread/tie your laces,’ or sum up the results of a study on the benefits of walking.)

The goal for any content should be to provide a benefit to readers. Become an information center on a topic and you can keep people coming back for more, and return traffic gives you more chance to sell, even if you don’t the first time.

Content Assets

If your content is good enough, be it on a blog or otherwise, people might even share it. That’s the idea behind Content Assets, in a nutshell. Sites all over the internet utilize the content of others to supplement their own and create a steady stream of engagement from their audiences.

Huffington Post builds relationships with bloggers who then post original articles and repost previous articles from their own sites. Blogs like Bit Rebels scour the web to find find interesting content for their readers and posts it to their own site (with attribution, of course) – they even did a piece on my 8-bit movie posters.

It’s definitely not an easy task, but putting real thought and effort into content creation can lead to great things… like traffic. Thanks to blogs like Bit Rebels, the portfolio where those posters were hosted saw over 15,000 views in just one day during March 2012, and still maintains a daily average of about 50 views.

My posters were never made with any business in mind (nor any sort of goal… I was bored, mostly) but the idea is the same: If you can create something that others find interesting, they’re likely to share it with new audiences.

Leverage Outside Networks

A conversation about content assets leads naturally into that of leveraging networks, because outside networks are essentially where you need your content to be shared if you want to build traffic to a new or existing site.

Social Sharing

You can tweet to your 149 Twitter followers daily and never see any benefit in your site traffic; you need to break into new territory. By building relationships with social influencers related to your business, you can attempt to utilize their hard work for yourself!

With the example of my posters, they could appeal to designers because of their minimalist approach, gamers because of the retro characters, and movie buffs because of their subject matter. While I am not an influential figure in any of those circles, others that shared links to my work were, which put my name in front of their hard-earned followers and fans, people I never could have reached on my own.

Guest Blogging

A more direct form of this idea is guest blogging: writing an original piece of content for another site with a focus relevant to yours. Instead of attempting to get someone to promote you via their social media outlets, come to them with a piece for their blog or site.

As with social sharing, the content needs to be original and engaging, but it can pay off. For the local shoe shop trying to boost sales on their new e-commerce website, a guest post on a popular running blog could drive targeted traffic at a time when it’s badly needed.

Tracking It All

One of the most important aspects for any site (new or old) is analytics. If you’re not paying attention to where your traffic is coming from and what they’re doing on your site, how will you know if anything you’re doing is actually working?

Analytics could tell you that, while you’re getting 43 click a day from your paid search ad, only 2% of those visitors are staying for more than 10 seconds. Or you could learn that your blog articles account for 76% of your incoming traffic, or a certain website has sent 1,247 visitors to your site in the last year. Just because the tactics above can be valuable tools to build traffic doesn’t mean they’re all right for you, but you’ll never know if you don’t track.

If you build it, they will come…

…as long as you’re serious about investing in short-/long-term search engine optimization, creating quality content, and utilizing the networks of others to drive new traffic to your site.

James Earl Jones may have lied to us all, but all is not lost. We had a sneaking suspicion from the start that what he said was too good to be true, so we’ve made it our business (literally) to help you out when it comes to web design, SEO, and internet marketing. Best of all, you won’t have to hang out in a corn field or risk losing your farm in the process!


*A whispering voice in the corn field tells Kevin Costner “If you build it, he will come,” while Jones himself says many times in a monologue, “People will come Ray. People will most definitely come.” Additionally, the ghost of Jim Morrison tells Wayne in Wayne’s World 2 that “If you book them, they will come.”

**Darth Vader never said “Luuuke, I am your faaaatherrrr!” The real line from The Empire Strikes back comes after Luke claims Vader killed his father years ago. Vader replies “No. I am your father.”

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