It was easier back in the ’90s to get people to come to your site. Now you compete with
billions of other websites, and large corporate budgets.
You don’t want just any traffic coming to your site. You want the right kind of traffic — the kind of traffic that either ends
up buying something from you, subscribing to a newsletter or RSS feed, or hiring you for the services that you vend.
Managing Editor Eileen Shulock and I put our heads together to come up with the best and brightest ways to bring traffic to
your site in this Web 2.0 environment. Below are our top 12 tactics.
1. Give Your Website a Web 2.0 Upgrade: If you haven’t done so in the past year or two, it’s high time you add
functionality to your website that at least matches the new and exciting features available on some of your competitor’s sites
and in other categories.
All the promotional budgets in the world won’t help you if your site features the “same old same old”. People will see
the same old thing and hit the back button faster than you can say “wasted budget”.
In a nutshell, Web 2.0 invites users to interact more with your site and/or with each other. So think about offering new features
that you promote thereafter. One way to do so is to offer videos on your site. Google now offers universal search, which means
videos, user reviews, press releases, and more also come up right away in search results. When you see a still of a video,
you’re apt to click on that before other static blue links. Hint: Make sure you label these videos with the appropriate
keywords, ie., the types of keywords your target audience is apt to search on.
2. Start a User Forum? It’s a big idea that might also turn into a big-budget item. But if you can afford it, nothing
gets better word-of-mouth than an active, vibrant forum where people participate often and react to others. People will tell
other people about their posts and the hotly-contested discussions that are going on at your site.
Keep in mind that you’re going to want to keep a close eye on your forum to keep it clean, keep it on topic, and to remove any
self-promotional posts that others have made. Look at the Terms and Conditions policies of other forums carefully before
posting your own T&C.
My guess is you will probably want to have a significant amount of budget put aside to promote your spiffy new forum. You want to
be sure there is a “there, there”. Keep in mind that many more people will come and read than will post. Typically,
as in any gathering, there is a core group of vocal participants, while the rest look on. If things get boring, you may have to
delegate someone to step in every now and again to introduce new topics and stir the pot.
If you don’t budget resources to make sure that the forum’s conversation is moving along and stays interesting, you may wind up
with just a couple of posts over a week’s time, which makes the thing look sort of vacant and unsuccessful. It needs to be
robust, happening, and a must-see. You get the picture. For examples of campaigns built around or inclusive of online user forums
see Dove skincare products or REI camping gear.
3. Flog a Blog: Yes, a blog is a good thing to have because the constant publication schedule tells the search engines
that your site has some vibrancy to it. But, like user forums that have few users, an abandoned blog is an eyesore that does
your brand image no good. Map out what you plan to put in this blog on an ongoing basis. Maybe it’s trade show coverage and
quotes from leaders in your space, or what have you? Make no mistake, a blog is a serious, long-term time commitment, for you
and for readers (especially if you expect them to keep coming back and to tell others about it). In fact, the key question to
answer here is: What are you going to write about that will keep your target audience returning often and linking to you?
All blog gurus I know insist that one should allow for comments to promote what they call “link juice” or
“link love”. Talk a lot about other people so that they have reason to point back to you. Some bloggers thrive on
controversy and people’s seemingly sensational appetite for gossip, breaking news, and other such fares that get people talking
around the proverbial water cooler.
4. The Importance of Inbound Links: You may know the search engines look at how many sites of your stripe are pointing
to you. If those linking sites enjoy a high reputation, then that in some ways reflects well on you. Think
“Link Neighborhood”. Sending out bot messages asking for links is like asking for something for nothing.
It’s probably a better idea to link to someone first, before asking for a link to your site. “Hey buddy, can you spare a
link?” Who’s got time for that? And if they did have time for that, it may well be they’re not the optimal linking partner
for your site.
In the tech world, you can look at your referrer logs to see who currently points to you. Why is this important? Is it a nicety
or do you have real functionality worth pointing to? In the marketing world, what you’re asking for is indeed a referral, which
otherwise would cost you real money.
The inbound links pay dividends because you get traffic in two ways from them:
- The traffic that comes from the link itself on the remote website; and
- Presumably better link profile results in the search engines, which then think more highly of you and therefore rank you
higher in search results.
5. Hire a Good PR Person: Unless you’re wise in the ways of media, you might be better off using a PR person to help
promote your site. Here are three reasons why:
- Good press people like Lee Odden and David Libby are apt to get you into places you might not get into otherwise. When I see
those names in the FROM field, I am more prone to open that email because I know they know what they’re talking about.
- An objective writing style is needed for your press releases. It isn’t easy talking about yourself in the third person, and it
can get downright smarmy and obvious if you do it wrong.
- A good PR person will know how to send your press release. Let’s face it, not every newspaper in the world
needs to see you’ve just launched a new widget, so why pay to reach them when they don’t want to hear from you anyway?
6. Spend Real Money Promoting Your Site: In fact, why not make your site the focus of an entire media blitz? The cost
of real building a really hot site doesn’t come close to the cost of a national TV spot these days. Alternatively, take
some money out of that substantial media budget of yours and reallocate it to doing something worth shouting from the
mountain tops, and then do exactly that with the rest of your media spend.
In this way, you’ll be promoting something of substance and you’re creating a way to engage your target audience in some
interaction and relationship thereafter. Seems like a no-brainer to me. But it’s not done nearly as often as it could be. Make
the website the star of your next media campaign.
7. Point to Yourself: I know of many email newsletters that don’t point back to their home page, except in the
boilerplate section. I’ve seen companies with print newsletters not point to their own websites. Business cards, speeches, and
signage are all typically missed opportunities. This also seems like a no-brainer. Since a website is not a physical thing,
people just aren’t going to bump into it every day unless you promote the living daylights out of it. Just be sure you’ve got
something worth promoting.
8. Advertise on a Content Network: Go beyond plain old Google AdWords search engine advertising and get your ads on
relevant content sites. This is called the Google Content Network, which is composed of thousands of content sites big and small.
There are several ways to go about this.
First of all, you can go the lazy way and allow Google to pick the sites relevant to your advertising, which they call
“contextual” placement (you can edit out places where you definitely do not want your ads to appear). Your ads will
then run on those contextual sites.
Or you can get proactive and pick and choose the content sites on which you want your ads to appear. To do so you can:
- Go through lists of content sites by category, such as home, financial or automotive;
- Search for relevant content sites by keyword within the content network, such as “Acura owners”, “financial
reports” or “handbags;
- Choose appropriate sites based on demographic information selected by you;
- Look for specific sites of interest such as The Food Network, The New York Times or Engadget.
You can plan on spending at least an afternoon selecting your target content sites. It may seem overwhelming before you start,
but once you get going it’s pretty easy.
Then things get really exciting. You can simply run your current AdWords text advertisements, or you can create specific text
advertising just for the content network. If you set up individual campaigns you can even create specific text ads for each
individual property. Or you can go wild and crazy and delve into graphics, as most of the content properties do allow banner
advertising. The only drawback with that approach is that it feels like every single site has different banner ad dimension
requirements and you need to go through them one by one. Arm yourself with a spreadsheet and a Diet Coke and take your
search engine advertising to a new level… oh right, and drive new and potentially better-qualified traffic to your website
as a result.
Hint: Depending on your niche, you might find some real deals on underexposed websites that cost less than the PPC programs
at the major search engines. However, it has been this editor’s experience (in the fashion industry) that you will pay
every bit as much for specialty websites that attract a premium audience.
9. Raise the Stakes: A relevant (and we mean relevant) sw**pstakes can drive beaucoup traffic to your website and
introduce your brand to an entirely new audience. It is essential that the positioning and the “prize” be totally
relevant. Garnering people who aren’t interested in you — but are interested in the all-expenses-paid trip to Istanbul that
you are offering — isn’t going to do you any good in the long run. They’ll forget you as soon as they are off of your site.
Relevancy is the ticket. This editor has experienced sustained, month-long 50% traffic increases to her site as well as hundreds
of new email subscribers per day by running relevant sweepstakes. Sure, you say. It’s easy to stay relevant in the B2C space.
But with a little ingenuity, it’s easy to do B2B as well. Are you a search engine marketing consultant? Well, get thee over to
Amazon, pick out ten SEO and SEM books and offer a “complete search engine marketing library”. You’ll drive relevant
traffic to your site, and chances are if they are interested in your SEM library, they will be interested in what you have to
offer as well.
10. Market to Blogs: Even if you do not have a blog yourself, you can always market to blogs. This editor sends new
editorials weekly to blog editors in her topical space. Don’t send warmed-over pap, however. The content she sends is timely,
unique, and above all, interesting. Think about packaging tip lists, top 10 lists or other “quick hit” valuable
information that a stressed-out editor can grab and run on his or her blog with a simple cut and paste.
Then you need to cultivate your list of blog editors in your niche, begin emailing them on a regular basis and eventually
start personal relationships with them. Once they start looking forward to your content or reaching out and contacting you for
a quote or feedback, you’ll know your strategy is paying off. Zip on over to Technorati now and see how many blogs out there
have mentioned your site. Then check back every week to chart your progress and to personally thank those editors who are
using your content.
11. Get Your RSS Feed Published On Other Websites: Most people think of RSS feeds as being read by the end user in an
RSS reader at Yahoo, or some other IN box provider, or on their own computers. But if your content is really top-notch,
there’s a good chance that your feed will be carried on other websites. Make sure you have plenty of good reasons to link
back to your site from that published feed.
Some feeds feature only the headline with a link back to the mother ship, while others feature snippets and a link to the rest
of the article back at the site. Still, other RSS aficionados insist that you send the whole article via RSS and link to other
content back at the ranch. We report, and you decide.
12. Create a Widget: Make a handy tool that people can put on their own website, Facebook page, desktop, etc.. Offering
a tool, game or some sort of handy device that people can use elsewhere is an edgy way to increase your footprint. The tool or
widget must appeal not only to other site owners but to people who are visiting their sites. It’s a type of over-the-shoulder
Embedded in your widget is a link to your site. The person who places your widget on their site should be made aware of this.
After all, this is your payback for offering this cool tool gratis.