These days we are witnessing quite a logical trend – traffic is getting more expensive. The concept of free website traffic is slowly going away for a few reasons:
- SEO, the major source of free reliable traffic, is getting riskier and less reliable. PPC is becoming a preferred, safer and quicker traffic source.
- Social media monsters, building themselves for a few years now, are now looking for more and more aggressive ways to monetize that past effort.
- The Web itself is growing up. Web business ventures are consolidating into large corporations with solid income which is hard to compete with for free.
- Free website traffic is harder and harder to scale. It requires continuous effort unlike, for example, PPC, which when set-up and tested well, doesn’t consume too much time (apart from regular monitoring and optimization.)
But is free website traffic dead or going away? Of course not. It’s just changing. It’s getting harder and requires a more creative approach, but you can still get exposure for free.
One (by far the most important) thing to note here is that you don’t need lots of traffic. When creating a traffic-driving strategy, keep in mind:
- Relevant and targeted traffic is a much wiser time investment (even if it’s often harder).
- You don’t need thousands visits a day. Create smart and realistic goals. Two hundred to three hundred targeted visits a day may be a great start. Apart from traffic driving, think hard about your conversions, lead generation, relationship building, etc. Traffic needs to convert to make a difference, even if it’s low traffic.
Here are some methods that startups and small businesses are using to improve their earning potential, build relevant traffic and bring in the dollars, even when they have no money to dedicate to the task.
Social media traffic can be free. It can be awesome as well — if you have a good loyal following you keep interacting with. It does take lots of effort and time to build it up. In most cases, it also requires continuous effort to maintain it.
A lot has been written on building up your social media following for exposure, branding and traffic. First Site Guide provides a very concise, yet comprehensive guide on building traffic to your site. It’s awesome background information you’ll be able to build upon.
On the other hand, being prepared for your article going viral on social media is also essential. I’ve seen lots of unfortunate cases when a well-seeded article brought a site’s servers down. Here’s an old but good article on how uptime affects your marketing and Site Geek offers some reliable uptime statistics on each listed host.
Narrowing Target Audiences
Casting too wide a net is easy to do, even unintentionally. Rather than trying to attract everyone within a niche, narrow it down further and slowly expand as you nail that particular part of the market. That will help you with exponential growth over time, rather than trying to gather different elements of a market that might have different needs.
For example, cloud-based freelancing software Motiv didn’t initially target all freelancers in the creative field. Their most aggressive marketing was aimed at Web and graphic designers, who they knew would most benefit from their software. Other freelancers could use the service, as well. But marketing was not directed at anyone but the most narrow audience for a more rapid growth.
Again, choosing between low targeted traffic and huge irrelevant traffic – what would you choose?
Utilize Market Influencers
There isn’t much to say about this one. If you can find just one person with a heavy social or blog following, and you can get them to try and review your product/service, you will see a major jump in traffic. But even better, you will see a serious jump in conversions.
Start building a relationship with these people, commenting regularly on their work and profiles so they recognize you. Then, once they know who you are, invite them to try you out for free. If they like what you have to offer, they will tell people about it without you having to ask.
You can get even more subtle and invite those influencers to get interviewed on your site. This often leads to a stronger relationship. Plus you’ll get free traffic from the featured expert sharing his/her interview all over the Web.
In the same way influencers can be beneficial, so can large websites that have a big following. Most of them will welcome a regular contributor (provided you have good advice to share.)
Go with (or Create) the Trend
This is one of my favorites. Tweeting a trendy hashtag may drive a boost in interaction but creating timely and trendy content can actually bring your site to a whole new level.
There are two ways you can build traffic from a trend:
- Follow online trends to provide timely coverage. Tools like Hashtagify, Twitter trends and Google Explore will be perfect for that. Another good idea is to monitor unofficial holidays and build your content strategy around them.
- Create your own trend. My favorite example is a free shipping day. Or you can get away with a less time-consuming initiative. Simply a “hot” section on your site may help in driving time-sensitive traffic. This site has it implemented very well.
Getting free website traffic is possible, but you have to be prepared to spend the one thing you might not feel you have – time. Remember, it is an investment and it is worth it.
Free Photo via Shutterstock
There are some helpful tips here. I’ll aim to incorporate at least two into my online marketing plan.
Ann, we have found that our customers will often search for coupon codes. This is another way that we have found to be an excellent source of ‘free’ traffic. (We sell outdoor shades.)
Yes, admittedly we are still giving away some our product revenue in the form of a generous discount. I liken it to PPC spend but more easily controlled.
With PPC you end up in an auction system which you don’t really have any control over. You have no idea who you are competing with and are subject to the whims of Google’s Adwords system. The price you pay can instantly go up, without you knowing. Your budget is out the window.
But with coupon codes you know exactly how much money you’re giving away, and can place your own ceiling on this. The coupon sites will often have a one-off fee or you can just be part of their free community.
So, yes, free traffic is getting harder to come by. But perhaps coupon codes is another avenue available to people, in particular, who have physical products.
(I think social media is still a source of ‘free’ traffic, but it has a horrible bounce rate. Between 98% and 100% of the Facebook traffic we receive to one of our stores is currently bouncing. Grrrr.)
Hey Katrina, thanks for the tip! Great one!
I don’t have such a horrible bounce rate for social media traffic – I guess my niche is social-media-friendlier! But I’ll think about the article on lowering your social media traffic bounce rate!
SEO is really the major source of free traffic. With it, you can get people visiting your site when they search for certain keywords in the search engines. Once you rank, you just have to maintain the quality and the links. But more than that, you don’t lose the traffic once you stop advertising.
Absolutely agreed. It does have downsides though: It’s hard to get, it takes lots of time and it’s riskier than it used to be!
Thanks Ann for another value filled post. I will be implementing one of the strategies here! SEO is still a great way to get organic traffic, but only for those who know how to play the game!
I especially like the idea of narrowing target audiences (because that’s what I did for my own business).
I’d try to find target audiences that are big enough for my business and then start with a small segment of that market. In order to win I’ll do everything to learn about those people and their needs and also find ways to differentiate my offerings. That is a proven way to build a solid foundation for future expansions.
Thanks for the comment, Paul! Great strategy!
A well written article and great encouragement just when it is needed. I had recently started doing some ads because it does seem hard now to get free organic traffic.
I agree, getting traffic is becoming expensive these days. One other strategy that we find to drive free traffic is newsletter. We’ve been receiving great number of responses and clicks from the content we send to our mailing list, Important thing is customize content of the letter and also group the mailing list accordingly to match the needs of the recipients. It does take a lot of time to prepare the content though but it is worth it.
Cool that cool
Very good points you covered here, mainly for startup firms on how to choose the targeting audience, utilizing hashtags and social media platforms to generate referral traffic. Good source for new techies.