It’s a problem almost all startups face: You have your team, you’ve developed your product, and your website is a veritable masterpiece; in fact, you have everything … except customers. How do you get potential customers to your site and turn them into actual customers?

Chad Hemzeh, media director for DSV2 Media and author of The Traffic Blackbook, has made a career out of helping startups manage the issue of generating traffic for their website.

Says Hemzeh, “In terms of the number one mistake new startups make, there’s usually no set conversion goal. What I mean is, they don’t have a linear path for someone to follow.” When it comes to paid traffic, startups need to create a simple method leading to conreversions.

For example, while getting lots of “Likes” on Facebook can be a means of generating traffic, just because someone clicks a “Like” button doesn’t mean they’re installing your app or buying your product. Focusing on installs helps build that crucial linear path. Whether you’re monetizing an app through ads, micro-purchases, or purchasing expanded content, “then you have a linear progression where you can look at your stats.” This allows you to compare your revenue generation against the cost you pay for ads or site placement, and set conversion goals.

The second big mistake startups make, according to Hemzeh, is “unwillingness to test.” Says Hemzeh, “A lot of startup guys, they start testing stuff out with paid traffic, and then all of a sudden, if it’s not working or converting, they just kind of give up because they think the one variation they tested should have been the winner.”

Testing multiple variations of banner ads, landing pages, opt-ins, offer structures, etc., can help optimize traffic generation and conversions. This process can be frustrating for startups, especially if they equate the failure of an ad strategy as a failure of themselves. Startups have to learn to view this as a process of fine-tuning, rather than as a series of failures.

Frequently, the unwillingness to test variations is “fear based,” according to Hemzeh. “You put together this nice page, which you think is going to ‘kick-ass,’ and then all of a sudden it falls flat,” and you begin to question yourself and your competence. Hemzeh says to expect things to not work on the first try. “You have to learn to love the data. The data will always tell you what people actually like, versus what you like.”

Identifying the precise interests and profile of your specific market will help you craft a campaign that specifically targets them. From there, you can expand your campaign to target a wider market. But initially, according to Hemzeh, figuring out who is already buying products like yours and specifically targeting them is a crucial step in building that initial customer base that leads to profitability. Without specific targeting ads, “you’re burning money.”

This relates to the third mistake startups make. Says Hemzeh, “you are not your market.” While you may know your market, you can’t assume that every potential customer will respond to the same offers or hooks that you will. Sometimes you can be too “close” to your product. This is where hiring a web-traffic expert can help. Because they can bring a dispassionate perspective to traffic, they can help ensure the largest possible market for your product.

When it comes to that traffic, Hemzeh says that analyzing what sources are generating the most conversions is essential. If you’re paying for traffic, you need to figure out which avenues are yielding a positive conversion rate, and which avenues are not yielding conversions. Just because your banner ad might be on a site with huge traffic doesn’t mean that users of that site are clicking on your banner, or even if they are, that it’s leading to conversions. This is another area where understanding and targeting your market becomes crucial. Traffic is important, but conversions are the key.

The long-term goals of any startup are growth, financial solubility and expansion. Without linear conversion goals, a willingness to try new approaches, and effectively targeting your market, these goals become extremely difficult for a startup to achieve. It’s not just about making money and generating traffic, it’s about maximizing them.

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