People ask me all the time: "How can I drive traffic to my site?" Well, there are many, many ways. Here are a dozen or so, off the top of my head -- just the basics, really. I may return to this article later if I've forgotten any major items, but I really wanted to list these here to form a little home for these types of ideas. Enjoy the list... :-)
As for the picture here... well, I suppose it's a commentary on the difference between web-based and real-life marketing. In real life, you can always give away donuts to draw people in. On the Internet, the best substitute is maybe a colorful donut *picture*. (I took this pic during a visit to Portland's famous "Voodoo Donuts.")
- Do something at least mildly interesting. SEO is tough enough for already-interesting sites, let lone optimizing for something with no sizzle. If you're in a field like insurance or something, then you'll have to make things sizzle or no one will show up (or they'll show up but then leave quickly, and they certainly won't share your site on social media). At a minimum, at least have a site that's good looking -- nice design, good pics, mobile-friendly (important!), etc. -- but some edginess and/or innovation goes a long way to generate interest.
- Have the correct infrastructure on your site for SEO. URLs should be keyword-loaded, short, and easy to read. Stay away from URLs that rely on parameters like "&articleID=23445" to generate main content. Read up on ALL of the important on-site SEO infrastructure aspects. (domain name considerations, meta tags, schema.org / rich text, *full* social media integration, etc.). Invest in this infrastructure a good bit via a very SEO-aware web development company. (Note: This is a nuanced point, though... While it can be argued that SEO-type URLs are better, Google maintains that they do not penalize sites for not having them. So, for some pages on your site, if passing a parameter like the above example is easiest, then don't kill yourself to try to get rid of it in favor of a static-looking URL.)
- Setup off-site accounts such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc. Use the same types of best practices in terms of infrastructure here -- e.g., getting keyword-loaded account names if possible, etc.
- Generate new content *all the freaking time* (e.g., one new article per day, if possible, if it's just you writing them; more if it's a team). These do not need to be giant articles. Do research as to the best article length for SEO purposes. (And check multiple sources, not just one agency's or developer's opinion.)
- Market the articles: Writing them isn't enough. Post them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Encourage others to share articles from your site. (Bookmark other sites that seem to do this well and discuss ideas with your developer.) And, of course, make sure to interact with anyone who comments. Be personable all the time, and build your connections / friends / followers / subscribers on all of these sites. (After all, it doesn't matter much if you post something to Facebook, but only have 10 or 20 friends there -- or for that matter 100 or 200. Nearly every social platform (even Youtube) has ways of building those numbers -- so read up on that.)
- Do tons of videos. Doesn't have to be high-production-value stuff... even webcam stuff is a-ok. But, do them. A lot. Read my other articles on this site about video marketing best practices.
- And then post them! Post vids on *Youtube* in particular, with a description of what it's about, and add keywords to the description, and a link back to your site. Post the video on your site as well, along with a description. Post the video on Facebook and other social media sites as well. *Link all posts back to your site.*
- Repeat steps 4-7 until, and even after, your traffic numbers increase. Basically, plan on it taking a LONG / UNREASONABLE / UNBEARABLE amount of time to build up an audience (think *years*, maybe), and also plan on continuing to generate written and video content *forever*. So, make sure you're working on a topic area where it's easy to envision rambling on forever and ever about it.
- Capture visitor info via a well-planned email list-building strategy. And, regularly communicate with this audience via both autoresponders and occasional e-blasts -- and while such communications should be quality/engaging, don't be afraid to *sell* to them within each one. The last thing you want to do is build a list of consumers who always expect *everything* from you to be free. (I know that may sound harsh to some, but trust me on this; I made this mistake once and it really drove the point home.)
- Consider CPC or paid advertising, if appropriate. Google, Facebook, etc. For many, there isn't a lot of ROI for this unless you're really careful and specific. But, it may be tried as an option, and it can certainly help for basic awareness.
- Periodically review your positioning within your niche. Consider ideas for generating more quality incoming links into your site, as this is important for SEO as well, and leads to more traffic. Research ways to accomplish this and look into the best ones for your site. Study things like what makes posts / vids go viral.
- Do all of the above, for sure. But, don't think that these are the only or best ways. It'll always depend on your site and the particulars. Research this topic (generating traffic) a TON more.
Bonus: More Advanced, But Effective Methods
Okay, the above being all true, time-honored methods, there are of course other ways of delivering traffic to your web site. One I more or less passed over above, as it's more complicated, would be leveraging the traffic of others. There are a few decent ways to do this, such as:
- Interviewing Others With Larger Reaches. So, let's say you have a web site where you review restaurants. Right now, maybe it's just a hobby, but you think that, with a lot more traffic, maybe you *could* actually get it to the point where you could make a living from it. You've got a lot of good content on your site already, but need more eyeballs on it. Well, here's an idea: Seek out some other food critics -- people with larger followings than yours, but in the same general field. Select people that you truly admire and feel you may have a shot with, in terms of connecting and getting them to agree to be interviewed. Then conduct the interview, write up the piece, and publish it. In most cases, the person you interview will be more than happy to share it with his or her audience as well. I can tell you from significant personal experience that having another popular web site share something can mean not only a huge one-time traffic spike, but also can gain you a significant number of regular visitors.
- Hosting Events. Events can function similar to the above item, only compounding the effects many times. That's because, with an event, you may have multiple speakers or presenters involved, all of whom will share the marketing links (which will be on your site if you control the event). Naturally, this method costs significantly more than anything listed thus far, both in terms of finaicial investment and time required to pull it off.
- Writing Guest Blog Articles. This one isn't too bad, really. While a lot of people might cringe at writing up something really good, but then posting it on some other web site, it can actually generate some decent traffic. The trick is, as always, getting hooked up with a much more widely-visited web site on which to post such material. This may sound daunting, but you may be surprised at the opportunities available out there, as content really is king on the Internet, and many sites (even larger ones) are basically starving for it.
- Soliciting Guest Blog Articles for Your Own Site. The opposite approach also holds true: If you can solicit articles from others, and publish them on your web site, that's good content for you, and the others will share links with their own social and professional networks.