An unusual business model that works

Last weekend was the first proper sun of the year so we set off with a picnic to a local tourist attraction, to ride miniature trains and paddle around a boating lake.  It was great fun.

But what surprised me was how many other people were there – this place is tucked away, it’s only April so most of the tourists aren’t in Cornwall yet, it’s 4 miles from the main road, down a single track lane at the bottom of a valley.  You only know you’re there when you drive through the gates.

So how did all these other people find it?  And how can that help you get more people to your website?

The Lappa Valley Steam Railway solution to low web traffic:

1.  Get listed

As the holiday-makers arrive in Cornwall this Easter and begin collecting leaflets everywhere they go, you can guarantee they’ll see Lappa Valley listed everywhere – it’s in all the local tourism guides:

  • The Cornwall Association of Tourism Attractions
  • Visit Cornwall (Cornwall Tourist Board)
  • Things to do in Cornwall
  • The Cornwall Guide

And its promotional leaflets are included in the welcome packs distributed by hotels and guest-houses throughout the county.

How to submit website to search engines
Submit your website to search engines so anyone looking for what you offer can find you easily

Apply it to my website:

Once you have a live site, you need to submit it to the search engines so they know you’re there – there are plenty of sites that offer to do this for you, or you can submit your site yourself to the major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.

The process is fairly straightforward; you just need to provide your web address and a few sentences what you’re all about, then the search engines will crawl your site and you will start showing up in their listings.  Check out this post on how to get indexed by Google.

Are there any guides that your potential customers may be using to search for your services?  Get yourself listed.

2.  Be clear what your business is about

There is nothing confusing about what Lappa Valley Steam Railway offers – it’s a railway, which means trains, steam and train-themed activities.

This is obvious as soon as you drive into the carpark (which is alongside a railway line).  You pay at a ticket window, give money to a person dressed in a conductor’s uniform, and there is a timetable of train times and a platform with waiting rooms.

examples of websites that work
Frugi sells organic clothing - their colourful website uses photos of people wearing its clothing as well as drawings of smiling animals - it's a nice place to visit and it's immediately clear what they do

Apply it to my website:

What do you sell?  Is it obvious from your website?  When people arrive on your homepage, is it clear how you can help them?

Imagine for a minute that you sell children’s wooden toys – your homepage should have images of happy children and families playing with your products.  The language should be fun, the colours bright, to reflect your products (just like Frugi’s).

Visualise your customer sitting at their computer searching for your product – what would get them to stay on your site when they arrive?  Whatever it is, put it up front, and make it eye-catching.

3.  Changing times

The seasonality of Lappa Valley Railway is a challenge for the business, as visitor numbers drop significantly after September and don’t pick up again until Easter – but I am one of those who is booking places on Santa’s Christmas train the day tickets go on sale, as they sell out so quickly.

Mulled wine and mince pies for the grown-ups, cookies and hot chocolate for the little ones (and a present from Father Christmas of course), The Festive Train is one of the family traditions we look forward to each Winter.

Apply it to my website:

Keep your site fresh – tie in with monthly marketing themes so your content is interesting, topical and relevant to visitors as soon as they arrive.

I’m working on a Summer School of social media workshops to run throughout August – I’ll promote them in June and July, with lots of fresh cool images and sunny language.  I may even go as far as adding a cocktail umbrella to the tea and coffee served on the day….

how to choose long tail keywords
Get your keywords right and use them naturally in your content to flag up to the search engine spiders what your website is about

4.  Keywords

When I just typed ‘things to do in Cornwall‘ into Google, the first five listings are websites featuring Cornwall’s family attractions (including my favourite steam railway), beaches, activities, theme parks, heritage sites and tours.

How does Google know these sites are what I’m looking for?

Keywords are part of it – and so is decent content, relevant information and regularly updated pages.

Apply it to my website:

You need to know how your customers find you so you can give them what they’re looking for.

A keyword tool is an effective way of testing keywords and related phrases – once you’ve identified your keywords, sprinkle them throughout your copy, use them in your page titles and your image captions.

You could study the ins and outs of SEO until the Christmas train arrives in Lappa Valley – if you don’t want to do that, make use of free advice on SEO online and don’t get too bogged down with the technical details.

In short, it’s about:

  • good quality content
  • regularly updated content
  • listing your site on directories
  • link-building
  • good use of keywords

But it’s not just any old web traffic you want – it’s customers – you could get 1,000 visitors a day but if they’re all looking for cheap accommodation in Spain and you sell handmade jewellery, then all that traffic isn’t much use.  Stay focused on who you’re targeting and they’ll find you all by themselves.

The train on platform one will be departing in 1 minute

If you’ve read this far then I’m delighted to tell you that you’re ready to board the business growth train.

The two main causes of low web traffic are poor SEO (so people can’t find you), and poor design (so when they do, they leave pretty quickly).

Fix both of these elements and you’ll travel first class to the top of the search engines.

PS I was kidding about the cocktail umbrellas – if you want to register your interest in Cornwall’s Social Media Summer School, email me and I’ll put a towel on one of the sunbeds for you (and I’ll also let you know when we’re taking bookings for the 3 hour seminars).

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