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11 Ways to Drive Gobs of Traffic to Your Website

John Doherty —  June 5, 2012
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This is mostly a search marketing blog, but I’ve written before about how SEO is not a complete marketing strategy. In fact, it should be a piece of a larger marketing strategy that includes email, possibly paid search, social, content, and even display and print. Here’s Rand’s inbound marketing model that many of you are familiar with:

I’ll be the first to admit that search might not be the best way for your site to get traffic. Search takes a while to take effect (often you won’t see returns for 3-6 months, and it grows slowly oftentimes even then). Here’s my overall traffic for my site since I launched it:

And here is my search traffic over time:

I thought it would be useful to provide you sources for the different ways to drive traffic to your website, so that as you are trying to explore new traffic and revenue streams, either for yourself or your clients, you can come here for inspiration.

Search

Since this is a search marketing blog mostly, and because search touches all other aspects of marketing as well, let’s talk about that first.

When seeking traffic from search engines, you must think about what people will type into their search box and where your site should appear. It starts with the user, and user intent, and you work out from there. You have to think about both the technical parts of SEO (how the search crawlers will access your site), the content part (what users will find and what crawlers use to determine what your site is about), and the offsite parts (linkbuilding, etc). We’ll talk about content and linkbuilding in a while, so here are some great introductory posts and articles about the technical parts of SEO:

The Basics of Search Engine Design and Dev (SEOmoz)
All Technical SEO posts on Distilled (Distilled.net)
A Technical Site Audit Checklist (SEOmoz)
Technical SEO Process (SEOmoz)

Email Marketing

Another great way to drive targeted traffic to your site is through email marketing. Of course, to do this you must have an email list built up so that you have people to send those lovely emails to :-)

There are many ways to get this list, but of course the two most popular are either a) organically build your list by converting your readers, or b) buying email lists. I am personally not a fan of the second, for I am all about brand loyalty and I’m anti-spam, so you should learn ways to build your email list organically.

Think about reasons to build a dedicated landing page, such as with Launchrock, to both test ideas to see if people are interested and also to collect email addresses for your launch. For example, I put one up for my outdoors website (which is still in beta and I have not had time to work on):

Here are some good posts about building an email list organically:

21 Ways to Build Your Email List Organically (Bronto)
How Launchrock Got DistilledU 1,000 Emails in 48 Hours

And here are some posts about email marketing and optimizing it for conversion:
Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing (KissMetrics)
Optimizing Email Marketing for Conversion (Hubspot)
All of Mailchimp’s Email Marketing Resources

Content Marketing (Research and Whitepapers included)

Content marketing is another great way to drive traffic to your website, by setting yourself apart as a thought leader. Content marketing is not as straight forward as other types of marketing though, as it is almost impossible to tie ROI back to content. Yet, content is what your users see and need, and ultimately is what convinces them to buy or sign up.

Here are some great resources for content marketing:
The Time for Content Marketing is Now (Distilled)
Three Tenets of Content Marketing (johnfdoherty.com)
Brand Voice Marketing – Shut Up About Yourself (johnfdoherty.com)
Content Marketing Institute
Manifesto of Content Marketing (SEER)
Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing (KissMetrics)

Hubspot’s whitepapers are a great example of content marketing:

Social Networks

Social networks can drive a lot of traffic to your site if they are curated by your engagement in the communities. I engage quite often on Twitter, and it has driven almost 1/6th of my site’s total traffic in the 17 months it has been live:

A strategy for social is as follows:

* Engage on the networks where your users might be;
* Measure the effectiveness (this custom report for GA will help you out)
* Engage where you get conversions, try to build an audience in other important places as well (such as G+ because Google is making it more and more important)

Some great resources for social media marketing are:

Social Media Marketing Guide (SEomoz)
Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing (Marketing Pilgrim)
Social Media Marketing Guides on KissMetrics (Google Search)

Webinars

Webinars are another great way to introduce people to your product or brand, and also to engage with your audience by answering questions that they might have. I know SEOmoz has been doing regular webinars for their new users to help them get the most out of their membership.

Note: There seems to be a dearth of good info about webinars on the Internet. I smell opportunity for someone :-)

Here are some resources for conducting webinars:

The Definitive Webinar Marketing Guide (Slideshare.net)
Conducting a Successful Webinar
Webinar Marketing Tips from Experience

We used to run them more often at Distilled, where we had a landing page that people could use to sign up for them:

Q/A Sites

Q/A sites such as Quora, Yahoo Answers, and others can be a phenomenal way to drive traffic to your website. When I was working in-house, we actually used these sites to answer questions about our niche and referred users back to our site. We had like a 20% conversion rate also :-)

Some tips for Q/A sites:

1. Don’t spam them. Provide as much value as possible in the answers;
2. Cite your website as a source where it adds value;
3. Always provide other ways for people to contact you (social networks, etc);
4. Don’t just answer questions in one vertical. Answer questions about other topics to strengthen your account and lessen your chance of being banned.

Direct/Referring Links

Of course, referrals from popular sites can drive a lot of traffic to your site. Real opportunity exists in the longtail of links as well. SEOmoz, for example, received over 245,000 visits via over 17,000 non-social referral sources in the month of May:

So not only are links good for your search rankings and traffic, but also for referral traffic if done well. I actually talked about this in my Linkbranding post a few months ago.

Forums

The right forums can drive gob-tons of traffic to your site. Niche-specific forums of course are best for this. Some verticals, such as the startup sector, have forums like HackerNews that can drive a lot of traffic (the spikes in the below graph on my site are from posts that went hot on HackerNews):

Here is a good article about forums and traffic:

How to use forums to drive traffic to your blog (MakeMoneyOnTheInternet)

Video

Video has increasingly become a great way to drive traffic to your site. If you have a popular Youtube page, your site can receive a lot of referral traffic. For example, my friend Josh has almost 14,000,000 views on his Youtube page, which I am sure drives a lot of traffic to his motivational speaking site.

Some great articles about video for traffic:

Phil Nottingham about Video and SEO (SlideShare)
Using Product Videos to Drive Traffic to eCommerce Sites (MivaMerchant)
Videos Attract 300% More Traffic and Nurture Leads (MarketingSherpa)
How to Use Videos to Drive Traffic to Your Website (Webs.com)

Comment Marketing

Comments on blogs have often been spammed for inbound links, but there is a way to do it in a way that adds value and can send you referral traffic. By commenting on high-quality and well-trafficked sites, you can get great traffic back to your site.

Here is a Whiteboard Friday that Rand recently did talking all about it:

Blogs/Blogging

This one could go under content marketing, but blogs are a great way to drive traffic to your site. Whether it’s through search, social, or links, or even social bookmarking (though that is done a lot less these days), having a place to show your thought leadership is a great thing.

Some great resources about blogging (and ps, I may or may not be working on an epic resource for beginner bloggers as well):

Beginner’s Guide to Blogging and Content Marketing (Contently)
Your 10 Step Guide to Blogging (Inc.com)
Marketer’s Guide to Blogging (Quicksprout)
Neil Patel’s Guide to Blogging (Quicksprout)

News/PR

Finally, News and PR. Press releases that get picked up by newswires, as well as PR pushes done for both traffic and links, can drive targeted relevant traffic to your site (where you then need to convert them).

If your site is producing a lot of timely content, you should also create a news sitemap so that you can have your articles showing in Google’s News results (and possibly in the SERPs as well for very timely content).

How to Turn Your PR Team into SEOs (Distilled)
Getting Big Links from Big Media Sites (Distilled)
92 Ways to Get and Maximize Press Coverage (SEOmoz)
How SMBs Can Use PR Campaigns to Grow Traffic (Outspoken Media)

Conclusion

I’m sure there are more, but these should get you started. And if you’re not using all of these to drive targeted traffic to your site, then you have your work cut out for you. Get to driving traffic!

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

24 responses to 11 Ways to Drive Gobs of Traffic to Your Website

  1. Anthony Pensabene June 5, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for the suggestions, resources and stats, John. I like the visual on Hacker News (testament to your suggestion) as well as the video suggestion (would like to see more people doing videos – allows for greater branding, expression of personality)

    Of course, guest blogging can fall under blogging. I would also not completely shun away from stepping out of your normally scheduled blogging parameters. For instance, I know you love photography..I could definitely see other photographers being intrigued by your knowledge of online marketing (especially if they want to build exposure)…

    Loved Rand’s latest on comments.. comments are highly undervalued from a peer relation/branding perspective.

  2. contenot??

  3. Great post and excellent resources John! Our site has spikes (some obviously much bigger than others) that correlate to almost every one of the topics you’ve covered :-)

    One resource I would suggest adding is Rand’s updated tips for increasing blog traffic: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/21-tactics-to-increase-blog-traffic-2012

    You cover a lot of the topics he does, but it’s still a really nice resource for additional traffic generation tips.

  4. Yep, really nice post John! Your suggestions are very helpful. Cool stuff, thanks!

  5. Interesting options, I am going to implement these suggestions and see how thet work!

  6. Wonderful tips. thanks for sharing!

  7. wow , gr8 tips, nyc info for share ,, thanxx

    Seattle SEO

  8. From my Google Analytics metrics, search engines drive much more traffic to my website compared to social media where Facebook beats Twitter. As for backlinks, Google Webmaster Tools metrics show many links from Google+, fewer from Facebook and very few from Twitter.

  9. Well outlined post, John.

    The diagram showing various traffic sources(methods) shines some light on just how many different ways their are to gain more site visitors….

    I am in the “Search Engines = vast Majority of traffic” boat, though, I am looking to break away from that trend and spread my focus more towards other areas…

    Relying on SE traffic has many positives, though, it’s a big risk to put all the eggs into one basket…(especially if our rankings take a hit….)…

    I also keep having looks at my Google Analytics Traffic sources, and the one I find interesting, is the mobile devices section.

    The traffic from these sources may be comparatively small, though, there is a gradual increase that I think will start to really pick up in time…..

  10. Thank you very much for this information. Its like finding a little nugget of gold. :-)

  11. Great list John. Thanks. I am to sign up foe Quora. That should help with backlinks as well.

  12. Hi John,

    Many thanks for those tips and the links to other articles – fantastic resources!

    While I was aware of many of those tactics it would be more accurate to say ‘vaguely aware’ or ‘dimly aware’ – meaning ‘aware but not doing too much about them’..!

    Anyway, I’ve written down 3 specific things to do first thing tomorrow as a result of this article, so thanks again,

    Cheers,

    Martin.

  13. Thanks for this very insightful piece.

    Blogging and Video currently drive a lot of traffic to my sites. I also started doing News/PR for my clients, and it seems to be working well, but I’m looking to try out Q&A sites…that would be a cool one.

  14. That was a great read. I believe that we should not focus on only one source of traffic. I usually find myself perfecting the one source which I like and leave the others untouched. Maybe a change in strategies is required to grow my business and gets lots of targeted traffic to the site. The question and answers way might really help I suppose. But then again, are we the qualified experts in the field to answer such questions. Moreover, even if we know something does help we cannot prove it to the person who is asking the question.

    As far as our site is concerned, I have learned that we should not go overboard and get distracted by just one source of traffic. Just do the work and move on to the next one.

    Thanks.

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