Organic traffic is a fantastic source of visitors that's often ignored by many marketers.
Search engines change all the time and many of them now charge for the privilege of including your website. So, people often ask me how to generate traffic, beyond the search engines and with little to no cost.
Let me be candid by saying that I am not a search engine expert, nor do I play one on TV. But there are two methods that I've used consistently to attract thousands of qualified hits to my website at virtually no cost and with very little effort.
Granted, everyone's different. And these techniques may not be appropriate for everyone. However, let me share what works for me and what I do, along with a few tips.
My biggest organic traffic generator is content marketing.
Namely, there are two categories:
- Posting content on social networks, including blogs, blog comments, forums, social networking sites, discussion lists, and of course, my own blog;
- Contributing content, such as writing articles or reports, and submitting them to ezines, magazines, directories, and guest contributions on other people's blogs.
Now, let's take a closer look, shall we?
Caving In To The Content Craze
Blogging is not new, but it's still an incredibly powerful traffic generation tool on many levels — either because search engines regard blogs as having fresher, higher quality content, or because of the internal blog functions, such as pinging and trackbacks.
The wonderful thing about blogs is that it enables you to not only post content favorable that the search engines will love, but also attract qualified, loyal readers to your blog and build a sizeable list, rather than the other way around.
(For instance, unlike submitting your article to an email newsletter, which has to go through an amazing gauntlet of spam filters to reach its destination, blogging, commenting on blogs, and guest blogging reach wider audiences eager for your content.)
But the most effective use of a blog is to post your own articles.
Doing so offers a panoply of advantages.
For one, it helps you to archive your articles, making them easier to access. But it also makes your articles search-engine friendly, creates and cements relationships with your readers, projects social authority, and subtly promotes your products or services.
In fact, some bloggers use their blogs specifically to publish reviews of products of which they're affiliates. Honest, comprehensive reviews provide not only the best clickthroughs but also a higher perception of objectivity than a self-serving salesletter or article.
In other words, unlike a hyped-up article that appears overtly promotional, a review also demonstrates your expertise and willingness to share your thoughts on an important idea or breakthrough. It promotes both the product, and you as an expert authority.
Granted, recent FTC guidelines now force you to disclose your relationships, such as when you conduct a review of a product of which you're an affiliate or if you received a free copy to review. But the objectivity is still considerably higher than an outright pitch.
Ultimately, use content as a means of educating and serving your readers. That way, it doesn't seem to be a blatant attempt to push your wares or shamelessly self-promote, but viewed as a genuine attempt to educate, help, and engage others.
The more helpful and selfless you appear, the more authentic and authoritative you become — and the more sales you will generate as a result, almost as a byproduct.
Content As Conversation Pieces
But aside from their popularity, let's not forget old-school social media as well.
For example, discussion groups, message boards, and email discussion lists, in which you participate in conversation with others, are excellent traffic generators. Interacting on these are a great way to share your knowledge and establish your expertise.
But as a regular participant, posting to a discussion forum by replying to a thread or responding to a question can showcase your talents, skills, and knowledge. However, one technique I use is to post full-length articles on them, if and when appropriate.
First, you have to monitor the board to see what kind of posts there are to ensure that your article is acceptable. Or better yet, review the guidelines before you submit.
Usually, there is a charter or a set of rules that the board will have published somewhere on the website or in the forum. Read them before you do anything. (If not, email the moderator just to be sure. You want them to be on your side, not against it.)
But here's a tip. Usually, discussion boards are conversational in tone and, as such, are not places for posting whole articles. However, while many of them do accept full-length articles, often in sections dedicated to them, don't go posting full articles right away.
A more effective and acceptable way is to use your articles as a means of supporting your ideas and arguments in other conversations, thus saving time and space.
You do this by adding links back to your site within your posts, when and where appropriate. If you maintain an online archive of articles or a blog of your own, you can certainly include links to specific web pages as a way to back up your contributions.
In fact, most moderators I know prefer this since you keep posts brief and to the point, and you don't deluge the forum with long posts that may appear as overbearing.
An obvious benefit is that you don't appear overtly promotional, and you get people to visit your site in the same breath. (I've had more traffic from links within my posts than with my signature files or bylines — a byline is an article's “about the author” section.)
Another benefit is that some forums are optimized for the search engines. Therefore, posts as well as links back to your website increase link popularity, and consequently your rankings, as a natural byproduct. This is true of most public discussion forums.
A thing to remember, though, is that most moderators do not accept blatant advertisements — your post must avoid being too engrossed in your business or product, or being copiously filled with links to your site. This goes for your signature file, too.
A signature file must be just a few lines long. However, an effective one doesn't just identify the poster but also communicates her unique selling proposition, and offers something of value that a reader can really take advantage of and get something from.
People are instinctively curious. So, if you offer something in your signature file, preferably for free, people will visit your site — if not for the freebie, they will do so at least out of curiosity. Your link will invite far more clickthroughs than a mere website address.
For example, I offer a freely downloadable ebook. When I add this freebie to my byline, or even just an invitation to join my free ezine or to obtain a free quote for my copy writing or critiquing services, traffic goes up dramatically.
A signature file is not meant to get people to visit your site but meant to give people a good reason to do so — and to get them do something while they're there, whether it's to join, subscribe, download, fill out a form, email, buy, call, read further, you name it.
I call this “directional marketing,” since good copy, particularly within a byline, is more than just for direct marketing. It also points them in the right direction, and leads them to do something. It's more than just “here's my website and this is what I do.”
(If that's all there is, then why should I click it? Who cares, in other words?)
Bottom-line, don't just post to inform. Post to invite.
Wanna Be Prolific? Pass It Around!
Newsletters, ezines, and their publishers are very similar to discussion boards and their moderators — in other words, the same rules apply when submitting articles to them.
Same thing with guest blogging. You'd be surprised by how many highly trafficked blogs out there are constantly on the lookout for fresh, unique content they can blog about.
Check with the editor, publisher, or blog owner for submission guidelines. Or check with the website on which the ezine or blog appears. They will tell you what is acceptable or what they're looking for. They might have a page dedicated to submissions, too.
Often, it is best to actually subscribe to the ezine or blog as to get a flavor of what articles are being published before you submit one of your own. And it's also important to find out if it targets your market, as you want to appear in front of qualified eyeballs.
In many cases, by subscribing you will get the email address of the editor, blogger, or publisher. Most of them seek fresh content, and as a result will publish an email address in the issue, or have a link on their website, to contribute your own content.
An effective and often safer method is to hire a publicist to distribute your articles for you. That person may not only have a large number of contacts, but also they have developed solid relationships and credibility with editors.
My publicist monitors my blog for when I post new articles. When I do, she takes them and then submits them to ezine publishers, article directories, even offline magazines.
Never send your article as an attachment to an email.
Beyond the fact that such a practice is annoying, most editors file their submissions in a folder within their email programs. And when they conduct a search to retrieve articles of a certain topic or theme for their next publication, attachments will simply be overlooked.
Choose publications, websites, and blogs whose readers logically fit into your target market — whether or not they are the same is not important, as long as they fall into your target market. Plus, there are tons of ezines focusing on every subject imaginable.
Finding a topic-specific ezine is fine. But you can also find one whose subscribership consists of people who fit into your target market — and not one whose topic revolves around your specific niche. Simply fish where the fish swim.
Again, join the ezine to get a flavor of the content and what they're looking for, and to define the quality of the readership, in advance, before you take the plunge.
Nevertheless, keep this in mind: content, whether it's submitted, syndicated, published, or uploaded to a blog or website is the most powerful client attraction magnet there is.
“Content is king,” they say. True, but it's incomplete.
A king (or queen) is irrelevant if there are no subjects or kingdom to rule over.
In other words, make sure your content appears in from of loyal subscribers and qualified leads, and use the content to indirectly promote your skills, your credibility, your knowledge, your authority, and above all, your willingness to help others.
Michel Fortin is a senior marketing specialist, renowned copywriter, and digital marketing expert. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless successful marketing communications and profitable campaigns that generated in excess of $300 million in sales. He's broken many industry sales records, including being instrumental behind the first ever “million-dollar day” online marketing campaign in 2004. He's worked with thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs around the world in a wide variety of industries on building their businesses, improving their marketing, and increasing their profits. He's a published author and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.