Back in the 90's the internet was brand new and there were a lot of bad ideas floating around. People wanted to have websites that were cool and edgy. They wanted to have the latest technology and unique layouts.
A decade or so later, the smart web designers have come to realize that consistency, reliability, and ease of use are the most important things when building a web page that people want to look at and use.
There has always been a common "Field of Dreams" misconception that "If you build it, he will come."
People thought if they published a website, visitors would automatically find it. Not that we don't all hope that will come true, but if you want people to come your site, it's going to take more than just hopes and dreams.
I hate to be the one to have to tell you that magic doesn't exist, but driving site traffic takes more than a genie and three wishes.
Whether we want to admit it or not, the reality is that most people get to websites through search engines. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 5-10 years, you should know that Google is the 800 lb gorilla of internet search. Bing and Yahoo are legitimate search engines as well, but trail Google by a substantial amount.
What does that mean to you? It means you have to optimize your website to get placed on the top of those search results pages. This is also known as SEO or Search Engine Optimization. How you go about doing that is the tougher part of the equation.
Again, we can't rely on magic here. We want to be sure that people are coming to our website.
Each search engine uses its own proprietary algorithm to decide what results are valid and should be displayed based on what keywords are typed into the search bar. They don't want us to know what it is and they change it constantly so that we can't figure it out. It's a secret they are not willing to share.
However, there are some things that you can do to improve your chances of showing higher on those pages.
KEYWORDS - Make sure that your content is keyword rich. If you have a site, you should have a general idea about what the theme of your content is. You should have an idea about who your demographic and target audience is. Think about the types of things they will type into the search bar when trying to find a site like yours and include that in the text of your website.
Make sure you track your web traffic back to the keywords that generated the visit. You can do this cheaply and easily with Google Analytics or a service like Statcounter.
Whatever you do, avoid using images when text would work better. I know it's fun to make cool images with adobe photoshop because they look slick on your site. However, when search engines "crawl" your site for content, text in images will not be read. That means that potential keywords that could have driven traffic to your site will not be registered. I'm not saying you should ditch images altogether, I'm just saying be careful. Make sure you have text content that is rich in keywords that could make you show higher in the search results.
See "images" below for tips on how to optimize them for search engines.
WEB ADDRESS (URL) - Obviously we all want to have a cool url that people will remember and make them come back to our website. However, keep in mind that the url is the first thing that search engines use to identify your website. So, if possible, make your web address represent who you are and what you do. It will help bring people to you.
TITLE - Make sure you title everything and be as descriptive as possible. If you have a blog, for example, make sure your blog post title clearly and accurately represents the content. Clever and/or abstract names for posts are not going to get you the search results that you are looking for. Search engines will look at your web address and then the headings of posts, articles, etc.
IMAGES - I mentioned above that you should not use images to replace text, despite how incredible it may look once you've "photoshopped" it. However, when you do use images, make sure that you title them with descriptions of what you think people are going to search for. You need to include keywords everywhere you can, and that includes the above areas (url, titles, and text) as well as in your image headings, file names, and descriptions.
People look for images on search engines and if your file names are keyword rich, there's a much better chance that they will click into your site from there.
Keywords are vital to your success of driving in free, organic clickthroughs into your site. Of course you can do paid search or pay per click options through search engines, but why pay for something that you can get for free with just a little extra work?