Getting traffic to your website without the right knowledge and guidance can feel like a hard trek up a very slippery slope; and when you do start getting traffic, turning it into a few hundred dollars every year to cover your server fees, domain registration fees and time is doubly harder because surfers are so used to getting Internet resources for free and many surfers would rather risk repetitive mouse click injury and picking up a nasty virus from a seedy backstreet website than parting with their cash to buy a good product from your reputable website.
No matter how good your website is and how well written, interesting and informative its content, you will make no money from your hard work unless you can grab paying surfers from other websites and steer them toward your sponsors’ products.
As we all know, more traffic equals more potential sales clicks. So learning the various free methods you can use to get lots of surfer traffic to your websites is a must do for all webmasters. New or old, it never hurts to learn new tricks for attracting traffic.
I can’t promise to make your websites glow like sweet golden honey to a bee but I can promise you several thousand new and unique visitors to your websites every month by using the free resources and easy to implement methods set out below. Broadly speaking, these free traffic resources split into six action categories:
- Offering free gifts
- Broadcasting your services
- Piggybacking on someone else’s work
- Piggybacking on someone else’s website
- Creating feeder sites
- Targeting search engines
Five out of six of those action categories revolve around the concept of giving away something for nothing to attract surfers (aka prospects) to become advocates of your fantastic work.
The items in each section are displayed in semi-random order to account for variations in obtainable results due to individual technical abilities and different website types e.g. if you are a know-it-all script writer with unrivaled programming and design skills who administers a programming themed site then offering a free script will get you more traffic than it would the rest of us mere mortals – we bow to your creativity and godliness as a script writer.
Offer Free Gifts
Everybody wants something for nothing and that is every consumer’s biggest weakness and every salesman’s biggest strength.
As a blogger or webmaster it is your job to provide a service that people need and to make a bit of money by advertising products and services to earn you enough cash to pay for the many hours of hard work you put into your websites.
Everyone likes “free” so give ’em what they want – give things away and advertise what you’re doing. Examples of what you can give away are,
- Free scripts
- Free ebooks
- Free software downloads
- Free reference sheets
- Free coupons
- Free graphics
- Free music downloads
If creativity is not your forte and writing scripts, reference sheets and ebooks is a little beyond your grasp then you should visit some of the public domain giveaway sites like the Internet Archive and Sourceforge and grab some of their stuff to host on your site.
Giving stuff away for free has four fantastic benefits:
- People love free stuff and will scour the Net for hours to find what they want
- Attribution – webmasters link back to places where they find useful products
- People share good freebies with their friends – this means more traffic for you as word spreads about your offers
- When you create your own giveaways you can put in links to any websites you choose – both to affiliate products and your own domains.
It’s always better to be original but if that’s not possible then the next best thing is public domain and open source. You are doing no wrong provided you respect distribution licenses and attribute the product to its original author. The advantage of originality is that you can place your own links and sales text into the document.
Broadcast Your Services
Tell the world about your services and products.
You must feel on top of the world knowing that you have a website filled with lots and lots of great products and resources that people come back to time and time again. I know I am about JournalXtra. But if you don’t advertise them…
Fortunately, advertisement doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, there are many free sources of advertisement:
- Add your pages to sites like Digg, Delicious and Stumbleupon
- Find good email safelists and send out marketing emails
- Use free for all link lists (aka link dumps or LDs)
- Ping search engines every time you update your site
- Ping your RSS feeds to ‘feed aggregation‘ sites
- Issue a well written press release when you do something news worthy
- Join webrings
- Join social media groups aimed at bringing webmasters and surfers together
It doesn’t take long to complete those 8 tasks. You will get between a few hundred and a few thousand extra visitors by doing them. When an article is really good and picked up on by the popular people it will attract tens of thousands of visitors from social bookmarking sites like Stumbleupon and Digg alone.
Email safelists are the sources of a lot of the marketing emails people receive. Unlike spam mail, safelist mailing recipients get marketing emails because they personally opted in to a mailing list. A well written email can net its author a lot of traffic, especially when the safelist has over 5,000,000 potential recipients. Even though many people opt-in with temporary and disposable email addresses, most use one of their real email addresses, consequently safelists are invaluable income generators for many web marketers.
Free for all link lists are websites set up for displaying links to other websites. They are more commonly used by marketers of adult sites and products than by mainstream marketers. These are nothing like directories. They usually consist of a huge list of links displayed in post date order spread over hundreds of pages.
Initially, free for all link lists were a good way to get dofollow backlinks that were used by Google to calculate PR. Google no longer gives high value to links on pages that contain hundreds of other links so free-for-alls are now only used to attract their thousands of loyal surfers. Mainstream link lists do exist but their effectiveness is not so good as their adult counterparts.
Search engines regularly spider and index blogs and websites that are listed with them; however, the process of getting your sites’ updates into them can be speeded up by pinging them to let them know your site has been updated and needs to be re-crawled.
Feed aggregation sites are like the Reader’s Digests of the web. They import RSS feeds from other websites which they then post under their own domain with a link back to an article’s source. Many aggregation sites only post the first paragraph or two of the posts they scrape.
You might think that letting your sites’ content be scraped for use on another website will take visitors away from your own site. I won’t lie, it does; however, aggregation sites tend to receive a lot of surfer traffic. Provided only a few paragraphs are scraped, it is no worse than sending post excerpts in emails and RSS feeds to your sites’ subscribers to tease them back to your sites. When controlled, being scraped can be a good form of advertisement.
Because feed aggregation sites are usually highly regarded by search engines it is best to ping feed aggregation sites 24 hours after your updates have been indexed by the major search engines. This ensures that your site is indexed first and that search engines attribute your site as being the source of the article.
Webrings are web surfing communities and come in two forms: those that specifically aim to get surfers to join them and those that hide themselves from the surfer.
The idea behind webrings is simple: get a few webmasters to create and join communities of websites that share a common theme, get the webring’s webmaster members to link their websites together then let surfers freely browse across the connected websites.
Each website that is hooked into a webring shares its traffic with its webring community by displaying links to articles on other members’ sites.
Many webrings exist, some use more intrusive links than others; and most command a large slice of Internet traffic. Two good webrings are,
Some social media sites like Facebook have community groups that aim to bring webmasters and surfers together into one community where they may see community members who have visited a website before them via widgets hosted on their community’s websites. It’s a little bit like matchmaking – the more common interests surfers share and the more openly they display their willingness to chat the more likely they are to talk with one and other. You can’t get much more open than a web banner that says “Hello, I’ve been here also, hit me up if you want to chat!” And those conversations potentially lead to interaction with the webmaster of the website they met through as it becomes their town square or bar equivalent. Networked Blogs is one of those Facebook groups. You can view JournalXtra’s profile here.
Piggyback on Someone Else’s Work
This is one of the most common methods employed by webmasters to get backlinks and traffic to websites.
- Write comments on other people’s websites (blogs, forums and YouTube)
- Join forums and use alluring forum signatures
- Write an opinion of another blogger’s post and link back to the original
Forum and blog comments attract from a couple of daily visits to a few hundred daily visits depending on how busy the forum or blog is and the attitude of their posters. I know of one blog that sends over 400 daily visits to one of my sites for the first few days after I’ve commented on its fresh content. It still sends a few visitors per day even when its posts are a few weeks old.
The main point of blog and forum commenting is that blogs and forums are small communities of blog and forum readers. A visitor from one blog to another blog is worth more than a surfer from a search engine to a blog because the search engine surfer is likely only after one piece of information whereas the visitor from another blog might be on the lookout for a new community to join; and if he joins your community then he might word about it and even buy something on one of his or her visits.
Some blogs and forums allow their comment and signature links to be followed by search engines. We call these sites “dofollows”. They are good for backlinks provided you post on pages with content similar to that on the page of your own site that your signature link points at.
A good way to find blogs that are related to one of your posts is to use Google Blog Search to find posts with keywords and phrases related to your own post.
Few surfers like spam so when you post to forums and blogs to attract visitors to one of your own sites you must make well written and genuine contributions to their communities.
Many blogs display trackbacks and pingbacks to their posts. A trackbacks and pingbacks are links on a blog post that lead to post on another blog e.g a post on Blog A might contain a link to Blog B so Blog B will regognize the trackback (pingback) from Blog A by posting a link to Blog A in the comments of the post on Blog B that the link on Blog A points at.
The trackback (pingback) system can be employed to grab traffic from popular blogs (provided they display them). All you have to do is create post on your blog about a post on a popular blog and include a link back to the post on the popular blog from within the post on your blog. Remember to keep your post flattering if you want the trackback (pingback) to be approved.
Piggyback on Someone Else’s Website – Create Content for Others
Product placement is the key phrase here. Nobody truly gives away anything without getting something from the deal. All 6 of these traffic resources provide you with the best known methods of getting backlinks and of placing product plugs on popular websites. The best part of this method is that you can (generally) re-use content, applications and scripts that you have already created and hosted on your own and other websites. It may be a slow way to build backlinks but it works incredibly well and every implementation of it can be forgotten about once exhausted.
Devote a little of your time to websites other than your own and plug your own websites and sponsors at the same time:
- Write articles for article directories
- Write ebooks for ebook giveaway sites
- Create PHP and Bash scripts to give away on download, ware and torrent sites
- Guest post articles on larger sites like Zimbio, About, Wikipedia and Smashing
- Ask to be reviewed by some of the many critiques
- Create social media applications for sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter
Article directories store hundreds of thousands of articles authored to be given away and used by webmasters in need of content for their websites. The article’s author usually places two or three in context links to any website he chooses (pointing to his own or a sponsor’s website) and any distributor of his article is supposed to maintain those links. A few webmasters remove the links but most keep them in. The net result is free hosting for your “marketing” article, links to sponsor sites, backlinks to your own sites and lots of free traffic.
Many article directories have good PR and turn up in high positions within search results so your article, hence marketing message and links, have greater success of reaching your target audience than when hosted on your own website. Remember to ‘spin’ your articles so that they appear unique to search engines. Article spinning is the term used to describe changing words and sentences within articles just enough to add ‘uniqueness’ to them.
Ebook distributors are similar to article directories except you can place more links and more advertorial content in free ebooks than in free articles and they receive less search engine attention. A great benefit of ebook marketing is that ebooks are frequently stored indefinitely once downloaded and used as reference material so your message has great repeat value.
Have you created a nifty little PHP, Bash or C++ script? If it works it’s good enough to distribute to other people who might find it useful. Place your details in the script and a link to a support and update release page on your website. A major distributor of a lot of open source software and scripts is Sourceforge which provides a project subdomain and blog that can be used to feed traffic to your chosen website.
Some bloggers write articles for popular blogs, magazines and reference sites. In return for a blogger’s time and effort, the popular website lets the guest author link back to his own site in his signature and, when relevant, in the guest post. This is an excellent way to get a keyword optimized backlink, an implied endorsement of your site and lots of clickthrough traffic.
A good review will drawer a lot of traffic to a site. And some types of website can benefit greatly from being reviewed by trusted “experts” of that website’s service type. Works well for most sites that sell products e.g shops, image galleries and video on demand suppliers. Be aware, though, that a bad review could cause a lot of damage so ensure the site to be reviewed is ready to be reviewed. If it gets a bad review, take note of where the site failed, put it right then ask for a re-review.
A lot of people play online games, answer online quizzes and send quirky online gifts to their friends using social media apps. Those apps hold a lot of potential for carrying ads. Those ads can lead to any website. People who trust an application are already primed to trust the ads it delivers.
Feeder sites are THE BIG traffic and backlink sources for many large traffic websites. They are specifically created by webmasters to provide traffic to hub sites. Some webmasters spend as little as a week developing their feeder sites which might consist of a mixture of original content, article directory documents and spun scrapes from their other sites while other webmasters devote a lot more time to their feeder sites and create wholly new and unique content for them.
The purpose of feeder sites is twofold:
- To generate surfer traffic which is then filtered and directed to sites where surfers are more likely to click moneymaking links
- To provide well targeted backlinks to the sites they feed. This works best when the feeder sites are hosted on different servers to their target sites (because they have different IP addresses)
Search engines treat subdomains as independent websites to the top level “parent” domain they belong to. For this reason, many webmasters create their feeder sites on providers of free blogs and free hosting space for domain names. There are lots of mainstream and adult free blog providers. Here’s a list of some of the more popular mainstream ones (in no particular order):
There are hundreds of free hosts and free blog providers 9both adult and mainstream). When choosing ones to use be aware that they all provide slightly different services: most host sites on subdomains, some place unobtrusive ads onto sites hosted with them, some skim traffic (send a small percentage of traffic to one of their sponsor’s sites) and a few have a habit of replacing sites with their own once traffic levels have peaked.
The free hosts listed above are generally safe to use. Blogr, blogger and WordPress being the favorite and trusted hosts for most authors with free hosted blogs. If you want a list of adult free hosts then leave me message in the comments and I’ll email one to you.
Search Engine Traffic
What collection of free traffic resources would be complete without mention of the two most used and heavily relied on sources of targeted traffic:
- Search engines
It never hurts to be listed in search engines. The quickest way into them is to place a link to your top level domain (TLD) on a high PR website. Generally, once you are in Google, Yahoo and Bing you will be found by all the others. Remember to
- Submit your TLD to them manually, once only (Google and Bing)
- Register your site (sites) with their webmaster control panels
- Authenticate your website with them and submit your sitemap (or sitemaps) to them to ensure all your pages are indexed and regularly spidered
- Ping them whenever you update your content
Many sites receive most of their traffic from search engines. It is important to keep in mind that search engines follow links and compare their details and immediate context with the content at their targets. A large part of keyword and keyphrase targeting is down to the anchor text and title carried by the links that lead to a page. For example, a link leading into this particular page that has the anchor text “free site traffic” and the title “free traffic sources” will boost this page’s search engine keyword ranking for combinations of the words “free”, “site”, “traffic” and “sources” were it placed on a page that discusses website traffic than were it on a page that discusses food condiments (different kinds of sources (sauces)). In other words, links placed on related pages are better than those on unrelated pages. You should aim to get at least 20 keyword optimized inbound links for every article you write; 20 well targeted inbound links are better than 40 ill aimed links.
Have you noticed that I sometimes use proper nouns instead of the pronouns that could easily replace them?
I could have ended the above paragraph with the pronoun “ones” instead of the proper noun “links”. The reason I used the proper noun is that search engines do not interpret pronouns: they spider documents and look for keywords and phrases. When a surfer searches for a particular term or phrase the search engine returns sites that use those terms and phrases, it does not return a list of pronouns. So, use proper nouns where possible and where they do not uglify content for human readers.
When you write content for your website, before you publish it, write an introduction to it and fill it with the keywords and phrases you intend to search engines and surfers to pick up on. Most surfers will read the first paragraph of a page to determine its suitability to their needs and interests. If the first paragraph fails to grab your surfer he or she will quickly move on to another website.
Directories can be good at sending traffic to a website but are generally only good at providing backlinks with targeted keyword anchors within good context. Most surfers use search engines.
Directories are used mainly by surfers who cannot find what they are looking for via search engines or by surfers with very specific needs. Most surfers who want a specific niche pornography will use a directory to satisfy their need (I manage adult sites too so I’m pretty certain of that) and those who need a good plumber with a long history will gravitate toward a local directory like their online Yellow Pages or Business Directory to find their plumber.
Some of the big directories with solid reputations like Dmoz, Yahoo and Gimpsy are worth getting into. Dmoz is free and takes ages to get listed in (I’ve been trying to get JournalXtra listed in it for nearly two years without success) whereas Yahoo’s directory costs $299 (a non refundable fee that does not guarantee submission into the directory) and takes up to 7 days to get listed in (too expensive for me to even consider it), and Gimpsy is inexpensive and quick to place registrants and sometimes offers free submissions.
There are loads of ways to get surfers to a website. Certainly, many more free ways exist than I’ve written about here. With the exception of search engines and some directories, the general premise of all free methods of traffic creation is that something should be given away for free to
- induce someone else to let you post on their website
- lure search engine traffic into your site
Once someone is on your site it is for you to keep them within your own network of sites and your associates’ sites for as long as it takes for them to perform a paying action like buying from one of your sponsors or clicking a pay per click (PPC) ad banner.
As usual, knowing and doing are two different subjects. I know how to lure traffic to JournalXtra I just have too many projects open at the same time for me to really make any of my sites a success. Nevertheless, half-heartedly applying half of the methods described above has generated a PR 2 site with over 18,000 monthly page views over 9 months without any paid ads and paid traffic sources. You can check the truth of that statement here.
Whatever methods you use to attract traffic to your websites, have fun doing it or you will give up on your website before it has had chance to make you any money (something I wish JournalXtra would do for me).
If you have any tips and tricks for luring surfers to a website then please show them off in the comments so that we may all benefit from them.
A good set of marketing resources are available here.