The past few weeks I’ve been posting a series of articles on different ways to generate traffic for your site in cost efficient ways. This will mark the last in the series and will speak to the ways in which you can generate traffic without any financial cost. I’ve written on employing social media in the past, be it using social media as an alternative to an autoresponder, or using sites like Pinterest, Twitter, and Reddit to drive traffic to your site, which all relate to what I call ‘online engagement’. What online engagement amounts to is simply engaging in the online community that is related to your niche in order to drive traffic to your site, and build brand recognition and trust. To do this, you can trade blog posts or interviews with others in your field, build your presence on social media, write press releases, and engage in online forums, the last of which can be the most efficient. To use these tools effectively, it is important to understand how they work.
The beauty of online forums is that they offer a collection of people who are interested enough in a given field to set up an account and regularly visit a site and take the time to comment on current topics in that field. To tap into these potential clients and build brand credibility, you want to engage with the community. Sign up for a few popular forums, share your thoughts, and build a rapport. There are a lot of online trolls, so always be sure to avoid polarizing topics, and when somebody offers opposing views or is simply being contrary, thank them for their input politely and move on. This helps you to avoid confrontation and keeps doors open. Once you have been on a given forum for a while, you can introduce items you’ve posted about in your website. Be sure to follow any forum rules about sharing posts, and don’t simply spam them with posts from your website. Offer posts from other websites as well and be an engaged member in the community. This is also a great way to develop new ideas for posts on your own site, and allows you to keep your fingers on the pulse of the community that is interested in our niche, which in turn allows you to develop products and content that is appealing to your market. If you have a hard time finding a forum in your niche, check out Reddit, which hosts any number of forums. If they don’t have a subreddit/forum for your niche, create one. It’s a great way to build brand reliability. Try to be engaged with multiple forums, and again, do not spam them with your own content.
TRADING BLOG POSTS AND INTERVIEWS
When it comes to trading bog posts or interviews with other personalities in your field, you ideally want to find website comparable to your own within the same niche, though hopefully with a slightly broader audience than your own. Contact the webmaster and see if they are interested in exchanging blog posts or interviews. The interviews are great because if their readership see you as somebody the name they trust believes is worth interviewing, it increases your brand credibility and drives traffic to their site. Likewise, if you do a guest post, they will see that the site they trust sees you as an authority. You, of course, will do the same in exchange, and you will each offer hyperlinks to the other’s website. In this way, you can share access to your readers and double up on your traffic. Be sure to have an autoresponder in place before investing your time in this so that when you get the new visitors to your site, you have a way to make sure they come back.
Press releases are a great way to generate traffic, as well as improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). MarketersMEDiA posted a great article about the benefits of press releases, and they got it all spot on. It creates visibility, raises awareness, enhances your SEO, builds your brand trust, and is affordable. Most importantly, because the press release is linked to a news source, the credibility goes through the roof. Online newspapers and journals are not just a blogger posting theories about some obscure episode of a X-Files, they are an actual news source reporting on your website or product. To share a press release, simply go to online news sources, find the press release link (often located near the bottom of the page), and the check out their guidelines. Once you’ve written a press release that adheres to their guidelines, submit it and wait. If you don’t think you’d know how to write a press release, Zach Cutler wrote a great piece a while back for the Huffington Post on how to write a press release, and it’s worth checking out. Some places do charge for this, but it is something that can be done at no cost.
Social media is of course an important part of online engagement. Firstly, you want to make sure you keep your professional and private accounts separate: your customers don’t need to see your baby pictures, and your friends don’t need updates on your latest deals, unless of course they share an interest in your niche. You want to take advantage of trending topics, especially in your field, and you want to maintain engagement with your customers or readers by providing them up-to-date content and deals. With social media, you have to be cautious. If you have chosen to do business online, it is important to make sure that all of your social media accounts adhere to a professional standard. With screen grabs and viral videos popping up all the time, one misconstrued comment taken out of context can completely ruin your brand reputation. If you have Facebook or Twitter, be sure to avoid sharing posts on controversial subjects, and when social issues are trending, try to avoid interjecting unless you can be sure that you won’t alienate readers and potential customers. John Oliver actually did an entertaining piece on how corporations on social media can put their foot in their mouths, even with the best intentions, and it is worth watching. This kind concern was exemplified recently by a Clorox tweet that was meant to promote Clorox’s products, but was instead interpreted as being racist. Use social media, but do so with great caution.
Because I help out a lot of newbie marketers, I always want to give them as many options as I can when it comes to generating traffic. The bottom line, however, is that these methods, though free, take a lot of time to increase traffic. I have one person I coach who has only employed free methods, and though he sees results, and his traffic has double five times over in a given year, his traffic could have benefitted greatly by employing some paid methods, such as Pay Per Click marketing, Media Buying, or Email Marketing. If you are patient, and don’t have a lot of capital to invest, these methods can be a great start to creating a strong base audience over the course of a year or so, but these methods are best used to enhance paid traffic methods. If you use these methods, do be sure to have an autoresponder so that the first-time visitors will be able to find their way back to your site, and make sure to install Google analytics on your site so that you can see where your traffic is coming from and determine which methods are most effective for your niche. That way you won’t waste time with methods that aren’t getting you a significant amount of traffic.