Where will the traffic come from?
It's one of those questions many business owners fail to ask themselves before investing in a fancy new website. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for companies to spend tens of thousands of dollars on redesigns with absolutely no visible return on investment.
When it comes to building traffic, we almost exclusively rely on organic search methods.
We can actually count on one hand the number of occasions we have run paid ad campaigns for clients wanting to get more traffic. On those rare occasions, it was only to enhance what had already been achieved through organic channels. This can sometimes be advantageous for reasons that are outside the scope of this article.
Overall, we prefer driving traffic to websites sans advertisements for three reasons:
- It produces significantly better long-term results.
- It generates higher quality leads.
- It's more budget-friendly.
The goods news?
You can use the exact same strategies we use for our clients in your own business.
In this article, we'll reveal how to get more traffic to your website without ads. Once you're done reading, you'll have several action steps you can immediately take to start generating results.
How to Get More Traffic to Your Website Without Buying Ads
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Committing to an organic search strategy is probably the number one thing you can do to get more free traffic to your website. Unlike paid online advertising methods (i.e. Google PPC, Facebook, LinkedIn), that stop delivering once you stop paying, organic search results continue sending leads your way long after you've hit "publish."
With that said, many businesses shy away from SEO because it seems intimidating. The good news? It doesn't have to be. Once an agency or developer has built your site to be SEO-friendly, you can easily learn how to choose the right keywords and how to optimize your pages.
1. Optimize pages for search.
Each web page, or blog article, should ideally focus on 1-2 long-tail keywords. Your primary keyword should be included in the following locations:
- The URL
- The Page Title
- The Body Copy
- Image ALT tags
- The Meta Description
- Heading Tags
2. Increase linkage.
Acquiring a large amount of both internal links and external backlinks is integral to improving your Google search rankings. Your internal links are the links you you create when linking to content within your own website.
Increasing internal links is easy. Simply, work with topic clusters that allow you to cross-link between posts. Not only will this help with SEO, but it also creates a more experience for the user.
Unfortunately, getting backlinks from other authority websites is harder. Your content must merit others finding it valuable to share and link to. You can also do some personal outreach to see if you can get a writer to mention your content on their own site. It's a lot of work, but don't try and automate it.
Ultimately, we've increased organic traffic for clients from under 500/mo to over 15,000/mo with no external link building activities. It takes longer, but it's not impossible.
3. Evaluate site performance.
Did you know Google awards fast-loading websites?
As content libraries grow, it's not uncommon for site performance to slow. Unfortunately, this can drag down SEO power. You can optimize your site's performance by reducing image file sizes, streamlining third-party plugins and using a quality Content Delivery Network (CDN).
4. Choose better keywords.
As previously mentioned, choosing the right keywords is important. Target something too competitive, and you will become discouraged at your lack of results. Target something too easy, and you won't get enough traffic to make it worthwhile.
The key is to go for a mixture of medium-difficulty, long-tail keywords, with a couple "quick wins" and "aspirational terms" thrown in for good measure. There is actually a lot to say about this topic; here's an article we wrote on how to choose the right keywords.
5. Remove bad backlinks.
Remember those advantageous backlinks we talked about earlier? Well, what we didn't mention was that backlinks coming from wonky sources can actually hurt SEO rankings.
6. Implement schema microdata.
Schema is a type of microdata that makes it easier for search engines to interpret information from web pages. Unfortunately, this one takes some HTML knowledge.
Schema elements and attributes are added directly to the HTML code of a web page; once there, they provide search engine crawlers with a higher level of information. Another benefit of using schema? It can result in better rich site snippets that appear above the number one ranking on Google.
Acquiring traffic via social media without paid advertisements is only effective when you have a large enough audience to draw from. For companies with small followings, spending a lot of time on social won't likely draw big dividends in the short term.
With that said, it's one of those traffic sources that shouldn't be ignored. As your other marketing efforts work together to increase your following over time, social channels will slowly become a more significant source of traffic.
7. Link to your website from your social profiles.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Include a clickable link to your website on all of your social media profiles so that prospects can easily find you.
8. Promote your content on your social media channels.
Every time you publish a blog article make sure to share it on your social media channels. Don't just post a boring link; pull out a compelling excerpt to entice clicks. Let the character limit of the platform dictate the length of your excerpt.
Also, always include a high-quality image! Shared content with images and/or video get significantly more click-throughs than those without.
9. Host contests on social media.
Social media-driven contests are fantastic ways to build interest for your brand. Unfortunately, this is one of those ideas that most definitely requires either a large audience to begin with, or paid advertising. However, if you do have a nice-sized following, it's an easy way to drive fresh traffic. Just choose an item you think your target audience would enjoy and organize the contest so they have to visit the website to sign-up.
10. Be a presence in relevant social media groups.
Another great way to use social media to your advantage is to become a regular participant in groups where your customers are hanging out. Both Facebook and LinkedIn offer a variety of groups where your buyer persona is more than likely present.
The key is not to be salesy or spammy. You really have to participate with the sole goal of adding value to the conversation.
Out of all the categories on our list, this one delivers the biggest "quick wins" in terms of free traffic.
Joining forces with other businesses, publications, and blogs which serve an overlapping market can take your content from barely noticed to frequently discussed overnight.
The only problem? Identifying the right opportunities and developing the relationships that make them possible can take a lot of legwork. Nonetheless, it is totally worth it when you want to grow both fast and free.
11. Work with influencers.
Influencers are people with lots of followers. While famous people are always influencers, influencers aren't always famous. Depending on your industry, your target influencers might be largely unknown to the rest of the world.
The key is to identify the ones you can create mutually beneficial relationships with and then, help them in any way you can; whether that be retweeting them, sending business their way or creating a special resource they would find useful.
The idea is obviously that the influencer will want to reciprocate at some point, and will be open to sharing something per your request. If you make a special product or service, you might consider gifting it to an influencer in exchange for a published review.
12. Offer guest post opportunities on your blog.
Another way to "get in" with influencers is to approach them with guest posting opportunities on your blog. If it's truly win-win, they will gain new leads from your audience, and you will gain new leads from the new audience they will direct your way.
Don't be afraid to approach anyone with such an opportunity. Even if your following is small, the person will benefit from being featured as a credible source on your blog.
13. Guest post on industry blogs.
Once you have identified blogs you would like to approach:
- Check their websites for editorial guidelines;
- Study their archives to learn what kind of content they prefer;
- Notice subject matters that have already been covered; and
- Craft a brief email pitch (include a couple topic ideas and why you are credible).
- Rinse and repeat.
Do a great job, and you might be able to talk yourself into becoming a regular contributor. Oh, and it's worth mentioning: In order to gain traffic from your guest posts, you must arrange for your posts to include a link to your website (usually seen in the byline or author bio)!
14. Review a product.
This one is a little odd, but it works. Depending on your industry, you may rely on several products to get the job done.
At Lean Labs, we rely on a number of software programs to organize and execute marketing campaigns. If we were looking for some quick publicity, we might reach out to all of those providers and offer to give a positive testimonial they could use for their own marketing purposes.
Another great way to build free traffic is to become a "familiar face." This category is kind of like in-person networking: While community participation won't provide an immediate boost in traffic, it can work to your advantage in the long-run.
- Are there any sites you regularly visit to connect with peers?
- What about sites where your ideal customers hang out to connect with their peers?
Similarly to guest posting, quality, relevance and overall helpfulness are key. Translation: Nothing ruins an interesting community discussion than some lame suit posting links to sales pages. Here are some worthwhile community participation ideas:
15. Participate in relevant industry forums.
Most industries have forums where contemporaries go to discuss problems, opportunities, and innovative ideas. Just google "[industry] forum," and you will likely find several.
The main problem I see businesses making with this strategy is spending too much time talking to peers instead of customers. The ideal scenario is to join a group that represents the industries you serve. That way you can become the resident expert on answering all of their questions.
16. Answer questions on Quora.
Have you checked out Quora?
It's a popular website that allows users to both pose and answer questions.
In one month, Cara from Wishpond gained more than 23,000 views for her answers on the platform, driving significant traffic to the company's website. Here's an article outlining her strategy.
17. Join a Slack community.
At Lean Labs, we use Slack to communicate with team members throughout the day. Slack was designed to function as an enterprise messaging software with streamlined utility. However, since its release, many professionals have taken to using the platform beyond its original purposes. It's essentially a modern day chat room for industry professionals.
Here’s a list of some Slack communities worth joining.
18. Build your own community.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to create your own community. For example, if you run a coworking studio, you may want to develop a community that allows fellow entrepreneurs to connect. You could use Slack, LinkedIn, Facebook or even build something completely unique to your own site.
Ryan Hoover from Product Hunt wrote a useful article about how he used social media to publicly build a massive community very quickly (and for free).
19. Attend conferences.
Attending relevant industry conferences and conventions is another way to drive fresh traffic. Giving presentations, hosting booths and just plain ole' passing out business cards can all work in your favor.
Your content should be the foundation upon which your entire online marketing strategy is built. It's for this reason that taking the time to build a thoughtful content marketing plan is so important. That means conducting buyer persona research, choosing the right keywords, building anchor pages and developing an editorial calendar that will dictate the creation of memorable content.
What separates the forgettable from the memorable? The Audience.
Great content has meaning for your audience, not someone else's audience. You can have a masterpiece of a blog post, but if it doesn't address the needs of your target audience, it's essentially worthless.
20. Automate email marketing campaigns.
Once you have your content marketing essentials in place, it's time to think about email marketing. A 2014 study by GigaOM Media found professional marketers depend on email marketing more than any other practice. While social media is great for attracting new prospects, it's less effective for developing long-term relationships.
The best way to develop long-term relationships (and drive warm traffic back to your site)? Create automated email campaigns that walk prospects through the buyer's journey.
21. Write better headlines.
How many headlines do you scan every day while searching online?
What makes you actually click on some and not others?
It's the headline, of course!
It might surprise you to learn that writing irresistible headlines is actually quite formulaic. For example, research shows that informative headlines like lists (that start with a number), how-to titles, and guides tend to get more readers and shares.
Here's an article from HubSpot on how to write better headlines.
22. Create Linkable Assets
What is a linkable asset? It's a piece of content that is SO valuable people can't help but share it, link to it and tell others about it.
Getting something shared on social media by news sources, educational outlets and/or industry blogs will definitely get more traffic to your website.
The key is to create the asset for the right person. You may assume it to be your buyer persona, but that isn't always the case. As previously mentioned, backlinks are one of the most important factors when it comes to ranking for competitive keywords. Thus, linkable assets also fall into the SEO category.
23. Repurpose your content.
If you have a blog article you're particularly proud of, consider reformatting it for a different medium. Articles can be restructured into video talks, webinars, slide shares, infographics and more. Not only will repurposing content relieve you from coming up with new topics, but it will also help you gain exposure to different audiences.
24. Start a YouTube channel.
Google is the #1 search engine in the world. The second largest search engine? It's YouTube!
Posting video content on YouTube can actually outrank huge brands in search results on Google too.
According to Fortune Lords, a whopping 1.3 billion people watch a total of 5 billion videos on YouTube every day! Choose the right keywords for your video headlines, and you may find yourself a new audience who is eager to click through to your site.
25. Cover a trending topic.
One easy way to get attention is to write about a topic that is currently trending. Respond to a timely topic with an article of your own, and you just may land some easy site traffic.
A variety of sources exist to help you identify popular news articles and public conversations.
26. Start a podcast.
Podcasting, when used correctly, can have significant effects on getting free traffic. Today, more and more people are turning to podcasts for informative, educational and entertaining content. While the medium doesn't lend itself well to every industry (bottle cap manufacturers may have a tough time coming up with compelling content), it can work surprisingly well for mainstream sectors.
For example, if you are a financial services advisor, you could produce a podcast discussing retirement planning. Topics could range from 401Ks to Roth IRAs to travel destinations. The sky is the limit!
27. Host webinars.
Webinars are another powerful form of content distribution that has only recently gained popularity. In contrast to a podcast, a webinar has a feeling of exclusivity about it. Since participants usually must sign-up ahead of time, a higher level of dedication to learning the material can be expected.
An added bonus? Your recorded presentation can be repackaged and used for future marketing purposes.
Content Aggregation/ Publicity
As previously mentioned, promoting content can feel challenging when your audience is small. One way to get around this hurdle is to submit content to third-party sources.
28. Submit your content to StumbleUpon.
StumbleUpon is a content discovery engine that allows users to quickly "stumble upon" new content. Users can easily filter through various categories tailored to their interests. The cool part about the platform is the up-vote feature.
Get enough votes from users, and you could gain thousands of new viewers to your site--definitely worth checking out.
29. Get your content shared on Reddit.
Reddit is a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website. Community members can submit content in the form of text posts or direct links; that content will ultimately be up-voted or down-voted by other community members. Submissions with the most up-votes appear on the front page or the top of a category.
It should be noted that Reddit does not allow self-promotion--it goes against the foundation of what the community site is all about--so you’ll need someone else to submit your content for you. Also, members of communities like Reddit are super savvy to spam disguised as legitimate links.
Choose a relevant subreddit (topic category) when you have something relevant to share, submit your content and monitor your site traffic.
30. Sign up for Help a Reporter Out (HARO).
HARO is a great way to connect with journalists and potentially gain free publicity. Simply subscribe to the HARO email list, and you will receive alerts of journalists looking for sources. Peruse the list of needed sources, and apply to the ones that are relevant to your business. If you’re accepted, you could have an opportunity to get quoted as an expert in a major news story.
Start Getting Free Website Traffic Now
We know--that was a hefty list of suggestions on how to get free website traffic!
A bit of advice: Don't try to do everything at once, or you will end up doing nothing at all. Instead, narrow it down to a couple strategies, master them and then, evaluate your results.
When choosing your traffic strategies, consider what would:
- Offer the biggest potential return, with the least amount of effort.
- Naturally, play to the strengths of your business.
- Be best received by your buyer personas.
Got any free traffic driving tips we didn't cover?
Tell us in the comments below.