Google and its spiders are incredibly important to the overall survival of your web presence and, by extension, your business. Nobody will ever try to tell you otherwise. Still, it is important that you not get so caught up in your mission to feed the spiders that you forget all about your overall mission: serving your people.
People are always more important than spiders. So for now, put all of that SEO stuff out of your head and let’s talk about some of the ways you can attract traffic to your site without it.
Finding Your Audience
So many web masters and business owners think that the best thing they can do is cast the widest net possible. If all you want is eyes on your site, no matter how brief the glance, this is certainly a possible method of traffic generation. Simply slap your logo up anywhere and take whatever traffic you can get. But! If you’re hoping to attract traffic that converts into sales (and you know you are), you need to create a highly targeted approach to your traffic generation methods. This means finding out and truly understanding your audience.
It’s the first rule of marketing: knowing who you’re selling to helps you improve your ROI. For example: if you know that your audience is made up of 90% die-hard Apple fans, why would you waste your time emailing them about your most recent Android App release?
Yes, Steve Jobs is famous for saying “a lot of the time, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” At the same time, a KissMetrics report reveals that Customers will gladly pay more for a product or service that they believe was made for them personally.
Not sure how to figure out who your audience is? Entrepreneur has a list you can use to help figure out exactly who makes up your target market.
The Golden Ratio
There is a fine line between promotion and spam. When you go shopping, which stores get your business—the store where the sales person jumps all over you as soon as you walk in the door? Or the store where the employees let you wander for a while unbothered?
The same idea exists in traffic generation and marketing. If you present great content and information the traffic will follow. Not everything you put out onto the web has to be “salesy.” In fact, most of it shouldn’t.
The Golden Ratio for Social Marketing isn’t just applicable to social marketing; it’s applicable to all marketing. No more than 10% of what you put out there should be blatantly promotional.
Specific Traffic Generation Methods
Okay, you’ve got the knowledge. Now: where do you apply it? What exactly should you be doing to generate traffic if you aren’t following the rules of SEO?
Straightforward web advertising
Wait, what? We’re supposed to be ignoring SEO!
Who said that straightforward advertising was only the realm of SEO? Ads bought through Google’s advertising system, a social media platform and ads that are placed on specific websites are a great way to generate traffic for your own sites and products. Sure, they only bring in (on average) 6% of a site’s traffic but that’s 6% you might not have gotten otherwise.
Moreover, straightforward advertising is getting “smarter” all the time. Google, for example, is in the process of introducing what it calls “Customer Ratings Annotations.” These are ads that, in addition to your text or image, also display average customer ratings for specific aspects of your business like “customer service,” “discounts,” etc. Beta tests showed that ads featuring these ratings had a 10% higher click through rate than those that didn’t.
Matt Cutts recently posted a blog post in which he addressed the question “Is Guest Blogging dead?” The short answer is: no. When you approach it correctly, guest blogging is still a fantastic method of generating traffic and building your reputation. It’s also a big topic that really deserves a post all its own, don’t you think?
Guest blogging is not the only method of using blogs to generate traffic for your website. There are other ways to put blogs to work for you.
Your Own Blog
If your company does not already have a blog set up, now is the time to create one. There are lots of reasons your company needs its own blog, including this one: you can use the attention your blog attracts to funnel traffic to your offers.
This is an “old school” method of getting links and traffic from blogs. It is where, of your own accord and with no prompting, you link from your site to someone else’s blog. That site owner will see your link (and its traffic) and check out your own site. Sometimes the site owner will then link back to you!
Find and Pull
This is a great way to generate very highly targeted traffic to your website. At its core, it’s simply blog commenting
The easiest way to do this is to set up Google Alerts to email you whenever a highly reputable blogger posts about a topic in your niche (or complementary to it). You then go and read the post and leave a thoughtful and relevant comment.
Here’s where it’s different: but instead of putting your site’s homepage in the comment’s URL field, you put a link to a specific page or blog post on your site that is relevant both to the post on which you are commenting and the comment you are leaving. (This method is great because it helps you build a great relationship with the other blogger, his/her audience and send traffic to your site or offer.
Note: If you send people to a very salesy product page or sales letter, you’re likely to get marked as spam no matter how thoughtful your comment might have been. It’s better to send people to a specific post on your company’s blog that relates to the post you’ve just read. Then let your own blog send people to your offer.
Social Media Interaction
Obviously you need to have social media profiles on the “big three” platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google+). Having a basic profiles isn’t enough. Not only do you need a fully “fleshed out” profile on each platform, you have to actually engage your profile visitors, followers and fans. So how do you do that?
If you aren’t posting regularly, nobody will have a reason to say anything to you and they likely won’t remember liking, following or circling you. This doesn’t mean that you should be posting constantly! If you post too much, you’ll turn people off. Post at least once a day but, after that, only when you have something that is genuinely worth sharing or saying to your audience.
Don’t just wait for others to come to you! “Talk” to other people! Remember: social media is about being social. This means liking posts, +1ing and retweeting as well as posting insightful comments on the things you like and want to share. Reaching out to others proves that you care more about the medium than the numbers (even if you actually don’t, you want it to look like you do).
It’s the easiest “cheat” in the conversational toolbox. It works in dating, it works on social media. It works because people love to talk about themselves. It also has the added benefit of helping you learn more about the people you’re attracting. Ask questions about who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, etc. Set up polls that let people answer anonymously.
People love contests. Even if the prize seems lame to you, someone wants that promotional t-shirt or coffee mug because it means they won something. Contests are great because you can use them to build your following on the various social media portals as well as get people from your profile to your website.
More than contests, people love the opportunity to save money—even if it is on something they might not have been planning on buying. If you give someone a 25% off promo code, not only will you increase your site traffic, you’ll increase your sales.
Get Beyond the “Big Three.”
Yes, you need to be on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ but those are not the only social media and networking sites out there. YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, Foursquare, etc—there are lots of networks with devoted user bases to whom you can market.
This all might sound like a huge time suck but consider this: in 2013, more than 70% of marketers polled for a Social Media Examiner study reported a boost in traffic by spending as few as six hours each week on social media efforts.
Forums and Online Communities
The old bulletin board systems we loved when we were learning about the Internet (if you’re old enough to remember a time when people thought frames were cool) is not dead! It’s just grown up into the modern forum.
Forums are a great place to find and build relationships with your audience. Most will allow you a “signature” that you can use to link to your website. The great thing about forums is that there are a million of them. This means that you don’t have to try to find time to post to all of them, you just have to find a few on which your audience has decided to congregate.
For example, a lot of Internet Marketers have used the Warrior Forum to help them generate traffic and build relationships with fellow Internet Marketers. Brian Dean is an active member there and cites the Warrior Forum as one of his top five sources of traffic. The key to his success, he says, is focusing first on creating quality and participating quickly and in ways that other users on the forum will find helpful (aka answering questions he actually knows the answer to, etc). He makes use of SEO tools from time to time to help him find other forums that relate to his interests and niche but insists that he does so well on Warrior Forum because he focuses first on being a productive member of the board (and having a kick-ass signature line). He published a great case study about his efforts in the Warrior Forum over on QuickSprout.
Online Communities work in much the same way. The most famous online community is Reddit. Reddit is a grouping of boards and sub-boards about…well, pretty much anything and everything you can think of (some corners of it are pretty weird so be careful!).
The important thing to remember about online community posting is that if you go into it just trying to send traffic to your site through a profile or signature link, people will see through you in about six pixels. Like with social media, you have to interact. You have to bu5 Ways to Diversify Inbound Traffic to Your Website guide to using Reddit to generate traffic.
Old Fashioned/”Passive” Methods
Every good marketer and business person knows that if you want to get as many customers as possible you cannot limit your marketing to a single avenue. You have to use a variety of different methods to get the word out to as much of your audience as possible. In this instance, it means that you need to go offline.
It’s easy to limit your traffic generation methods to the web because that’s where your website lives. There are, however, some people for whom the Internet is an afterthought. That doesn’t always automatically mean that they aren’t worthy of your time or attention. You can drive a lot of traffic to your website through your offline marketing methods by doing one simple thing: including your URL.
Putting your website’s URL on your business cards, buttons, signage and other promotional materials might seem like a small step, but it is an important one. This is particularly effective for brick and mortar businesses who are attempting to get local business. For example—if you’re a hair stylist, you can get a lot of site traffic by putting your site’s URL on your flier and encouraging people to “book online!”
If you’re still not convinced consider this statistic: in 2013, only 20% of the global ad spending was on online advertising methods. If it’s worth 80% of a budget, surely there must still be something to it, right?
By now you’re probably sweating because everything we’re talking about goes against the kajillion pages of SEO-centric reading you’ve done. Maybe it will help to think about it this way: When you focus on the people, your SEO will naturally follow suit.
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