Google holds a lot of webmasters hostage. Organic traffic is a drug and for many, when you get really good at it, it’s convenient crutch.
Some have felt the pain of just what happens when a website becomes 100% reliant on organic traffic, only to later lose favor with Google’s good graces. This usually happens to every SEO at least once if they’re smart, more than once if they need a few good slaps to learn an important lesson.
But things don’t have to be that way.
So what’s the alternative? Well, quite frankly, there are a ton if you consider all of your options.
Billion dollar businesses have been built off some of the sites and methods I’ll share below. Case in point: Remember when Airbnb got called out for spamming the hell out of Craigslist? (which happened to be a way affiliates were making money for years… then someone came along and decided to build an enormous business off of it, hmmm)
While we might not have the resources to scale to point that Airbnb did, there is no question that this stuff works depending on how well you can execute.
This extensive guide below gives you 12 places and 9 excellent traffic-getting strategies you can use today to start building traffic to your online properties. No need to worry about when the next Google update is going to strike down and turn your business into a toasted memory.
A word of warning: You’ll find a boatload of excellent ideas in here but don’t get so enamored with the idea of diversifying your traffic that you fly in all different directions.
Sometimes diversification can be a trap so pick just a couple channels and focus on doing them well. Only expand when you’re comfortable and don’t feel like it’s a stretch of your time and energy.
Does that make sense? I hope so.
Let’s get started!
12 Of the Most Popular Traffic Sources for 2014
Below you’ll find a handful of low-Alexa sites you can use to start building traffic back to your sites immediately. You’ll no doubt recognize all of them, but how many do you actively use to promote your site on?
There’s a space for you no matter what niche you operate in. The key is engagement. Submit fresh pieces of content, comment on other stories, and don’t promote your stuff too much. Reddit is basically just a forum run by a mob of mostly male 20-somethings.
Beware the stealth ban! Reddit has a unique way of dealing with spammers: banning them so they don’t even know they’re banned. If you’re overly promotional and not too subtle, expect to get slapped around. So try to play it cool.
I have been seeing Quora showing up in the SERPs more and more over the years, and sometimes it’s pages that are years old. Because of this observation, getting traffic from Quora seems like it’s going going to be a bit more sustainable from something like Reddit where the conversation will die down after a couple days and the referral traffic wears off.
However because Quora implements a feature where the most in-depth answers are shown at the top via a voting system, if you’re not at the top you’re not getting many views at all. That means you’re going to spend a ton of time producing content to make sure you’re at the top (which still is no guarantee). All of that time spent on producing content for Quora could just end up being a nice blog post for your own blog or a guest post for someone elses. So if you consider that, it doesn’t really make any sense at all unless the traffic trade-off is really good. Sadly, from everything I have read about Quora for traffic, the trade-off just isn’t there.
Here’s a pretty good case study that dives deeper: Is Quora a Good Source of Traffic?
3. Udemy and Skillshare
The new kids on the block and a new channel I am looking forward to testing here within the next month or so.
If you’re not familiar with these sites, they are essentially comprehensive video courses on pretty much any topic under the sun from learning guitar, speaking a foreign language, although the technology courses are a lot more popular. You put together a video course and throw it up there for a price, or for free.
While most courses are paid, and that is certainly the obvious draw for most content producers (make money selling video courses) the free ones garner a lot of interest. For example, this HTML course that has 12,400 students so far over the course of a year or two. Any place where you can get a handful of people intimately involved with your brand and your content on a daily basis is a win in my book.
Perhaps these kinds of sites where people are consuming a ton of your content (especially video) goes beyond just getting traffic… and at this point you’re actually creating rabid fans. This would only makes sense if you’re building a brand online, and wouldn’t make sense for someone with a network of affiliate sites.
Shoemoney did an interesting post on Udemy here: Should You Sell a Course on Udemy?
Slideshare is probably the biggest underdog on this list and has the power to push some traffic, but it’s limited to just a handful of niches. Check out the front-page categories, if you’re not involved with any of them then it might just be best to skip Slideshare and focus on the other sites on this list.
Because the biggest way of driving traffic from Slideshare is getting your presentation featured somewhere on the homepage.
There’s also a couple more benefits including getting your presentation embedded on other blogs (but IMO you’d have a better shot with an infographic) or getting your presentation ranked in Google by using Slideshare as a tier 1 (I think we all do this already anyway).
If you’re still interested in reading about Slideshare here’s a pretty good case study: Slideshare Traffic Case Study: From 0 to 243,000 Views in 30 Days
The biggest difference between Amazon/Kindle traffic and every other traffic source you’ll find in this post is that the traffic you generate from Amazon is 100% BUYER traffic. This is huge.
If you’ve been involved in list building or retaining your buyer e-mails you’ll know just how powerful buyer traffic is. If you don’t have any experience with lists, I’ll just tell you now that my buyer list generates 3x more conversions than any other traffic medium I’ve ever played with. It makes a HUGE difference.
There’s a great TED video about generating traffic from Amazon by Hollis Carter. He spun his wheels as a bottom-of-the-pyramid affiliate marketer before he finally figured out how to hack Amazon and shares a lot of cool shit in this video, I highly recommend you take the 20 minutes out to watch it.
If you don’t have the time to watch it here’s a couple good nuggets:
- Split test your covers with Facebook and your titles with Adwords.
- Forget about keyword targeting, focus on categories instead.
- Give book readers an opt-in right when they open the book (a video summary of the book as an alternative to watching in exchange for an email) and have something to sell them in the backend.
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out and is a direct link to reporters writing stories on all kinds of different topics. By providing reporters with sound-bites/quotes they can use within their story, you’ll not only be building credibility for yourself but you’ll also get traffic directly from the story and the possibility of one the most powerful links you’ve ever gotten in your life.
Opportunities are time-sensitive, here is an example of one so you can get an idea of what this entails:
I don’t have any personal experience using HARO but from what I understand you’ll put in a lot of time and only get a few links and mentions…but those will be the best links you’ve ever built.
Pinterest is what I’d consider one of the better tier 1 properties you can have, especially if you’re in any niche where the demographic leans strongly towards women. But manipulating this site solely for SEO would be a rookie mistake simply because of it’s huge direct traffic potential.
Here are some of the best niches for Pinterest:
There is a dope case study from CCarter here on Pinterest traffic and you can see what happens when you correctly match up 2 websites with the same targeted demographic. Fucking magic!
For a few more tips, check this out:
Craigslist has been battling spammers and marketers for years and they’ve increasingly made it more difficult to leverage for traffic. BHW has a Jr. VIP section dedicated to classified ads sites like CL and others, but honestly I think if you were going to shoot for generating traffic with these kinds of sites it would probably make sense to ignore everything but CL.
CL seems to be a better avenue for leads & sales rather than direct traffic, a lot of traffic goes on CL to buy.
I have 2 craigslist accounts that I post from 4 to 6 ads per day for different services, I advertise SEO, email blasting, logo design and other stuff too, I get at least 2 new clients every week.
Here’s a good post about generating sign-ups for a start-up via CL: Driving Traffic from Craigslist.
While we have touched on posting ads, not a lot of people talk about actually mailing the people posting ads. This was how Airbnb got vacation home owners to list their homes on their site. This is also the reason why you get a lot of spam when you post a job ad (lol).
I’m iffy about this traffic source, because to make it effective you really have to scale, and CL does not like spam that scales.
Facebook, the old standby and Google’s biggest contender for ‘God of the Internet’.
Here’s a few ways people are getting traffic from Facebook.
A. Viral Content
If you really want to master this traffic source, find out what the FB champions are doing in this space. Someone like Neetzan Zimmerman who generated more pageviews for his content than all other 20+ Gawker writers combined.
Viper Chill did a really superb post on viral marketing via Facebook: How to Reach 100,000,000 Unique Visitors in Just 6 Months this is actually a post that’s more than just generating traffic, it also covers building a website based solely on that traffic and pulling revenue with Adsense. I’m not much of a fan of one-trick pony business models but like everything else on that blog it’s worth a read.
B. Your Own Pages
A great way of generating FB traffic is by creating a community around your brand’s page. While most companies use their page to post purely promotional material, others are doing things a bit differently and reaping a nice reward.
Notable exceptions include:
Unless I’m missing something here, Facebook groups seem largely ineffective for traffic generation. I have tinkered with them a little bit and it seems like the best groups don’t allow self promotion, while the ones that do are overloaded with everyone just promoting themselves.
D. Something Sneaky
There is a way to grab UIDs and usernames off of Facebook’s open graph and actually send direct e-mails to Facebook users.
A little known fact about Facebook is that you can directly e-mail someone by appending their username to @facebook.com.
Here’s a cool tutorial about this: Exploiting Facebook Open Graph to Email Your Facebook Followers
I like Twitter because it gets a boatload of traffic and there’s a lot of different ways you can leverage it. I will touch on a few here.
A. Using IFTTT
IFTTT works beautifully with Twitter. If you’re not familiar with IFTTT it stands for “If This Then That” and is basically a free web service that helps you automate other web services like Twitter. Check out this list of IFTTT “Recipes” that implement Twiter into them.
As you can see you can do all kinds of stuff such as automatically tweeting out your new blog posts as you publish them, automatically thanking someone for following you, and you can even automatically send your FB status over to Twitter using IFTTT. The combinations here are endless.
There are automated programs that work with Twitter, I have used some of them like Ocommunity and Twitter Adder. Using just the Twitter autofollow strategy, this guy pulled in a handful of conversions over a 2 week period from something that took him 20 minutes to set up.
While you’re not going to get a boatload of visitors from it, it might be something you can use to get a new site off the ground. Getting traction can sometimes be an uphill battle for a new website.
C. Finding and connecting to industry influencers
Saving the most legitimate usage for last, another strategy for using Twitter for traffic will be trying to connect with others in your industry who command a large following. A good solution to actually finding these people is via BuzzSumo. You can find the most shared content in your space with this app, and then find out who shared it and sort by their follower count.
The thing I like about Youtube and videos is it’s not only a traffic source but also a form of content you can compliment your site with and distribute across all of your other marketing channels. Done well, video can really kick ass for you.
If you’re playing in a niche that commands a healthy amount of searches within Youtube itself (get an idea with the Youtube keyword suggestion tool), you’d be batshit crazy not to think about adding video to your marketing arsenal.
Yes, you can even rank your videos
Even though I really wanted to stay away from SEO with this post, I think it’s worth nothing that ranking with videos is a great strategy because Youtube videos seem to rank easier than most other properties and have a tendency to stick to where you put them. This isn’t much of a surprise, Google owns them and they just love to favor their web properties over everything else.
With that said, Youtube videos command a better CTR in SERPs because of the thumbnail attached to them and you also have the ability to link out from them.
Some popular Tumblr blogs remind me of Facebook pages. Short posts, image intensive, but just a bit more hipster than the usual FB crowd.
If you operate within the Tumblr demographic it might be worth running a blog on the platform, otherwise you might just be spinning your wheels and not going anywhere.
Creative Traffic Generation from Web 2.0s Like Tumblr
A friend of mine developed a private tool he called Spamblr. What it basically did was blast out messages to thousands of Tumblr blog owners at a time via their built-in messaging system. It was an interesting tool that just showed you how creative thinking can access traffic that you might not be thinking about.
When people talk about getting traffic they immediately defer to to millions of visitors that surf the site, but how many people are thinking about the blog owners behind Tumblr?
9 Of the Most Popular Traffic Generation Strategies for 2014
Now that we’ve went over the best sites you can use to generate more referral traffic, let’s go over some of the best strategies as a whole.
Press Releases the Right Way
There’s a couple different ways people use press releases. Some folks use them for links and/or citations when they don’t have much of a real story, this is very common and perfectly fine. Others use press releases to get real news/media coverage when a worthy story exists for their business/brand. What I will talk about is the latter.
Getting real, genuine press is something that requires a targeted and strategic approach, PRWeb’s most likely won’t help here no matter how expensive they are. You need to find the journalists that cover the kinds of stories you’re pitching, set them up with a press kit that makes things as easy as possible for them, and then run follow-up with them until they write about you.
There’s an amazing tutorial on doing all of this here: MTurk + Google News API = Press – I highly recommend reading this if you’re thinking about PR, it’s easily the best tutorial/case study I’ve ever read on the subject.
Pulling Users Out of Forums
Forums, one of my favorite sources of traffic.
If you engage niche communities with knowledge and authenticity, they’re a great place to boost credibility while generating traffic and sales all at once.
I won’t spend a ton of time on this, you’re probably already familiar with it.
Linkbuilding for Traffic (Not SEO)
When most people talk about linkbuilding it’s related to getting better SERPs. However, what most people don’t do is build links for traffic and not SEO.
The first step is vital: really know what traffic already converts for you. Don’t get stuck in a spot where you’re paying monthly for links on a site that bring plenty of traffic but don’t convert.
You can find sites for link rental candidates via your Adwords campaigns, your Analytics, SEMrush, or Quantcast. Yes, these are going to be links you’ll most likely have to pay for BUT only if they make $ sense. This strategy is similar to mining for gold, you will end up looking at a lot of sites (the vast majority shit) but very few will be worth advertising on.
I learned about this strategy from a WF member years ago who pays out 5 figures monthly for link rentals for traffic….he kills it with them.
E-Mailing Without Getting Arrested
There’s a couple different ways to approach e-mail.
1. Double Opt-Ins and Buyers
The “legitimate” way of mailing and is actually what I have the most experience with. My best numbers come off of traffic from my list and beats every other traffic source’s numbers by a factor of 3.
At one time I was using GetResponse but have since moved to Mailchimp.
I do A LOT of list segmentation and set up groups within Mailchimp depending on where the opt-in came from or what products customers have purchased. This is a must-have if you want to send out laser targeted mailings later on.
2. Bulk Mailing
I don’t have a ton of personal experience with bulk mailing, but I have heard a lot of good things about Sendy.co and the cost-effectiveness of Amazon SES. Great delivery rate and super-cheap compared to other solutions. There is a pretty cool cost comparison tool on their homepage so you can see for yourself.
If you want to go down this path, here’s a good video to get you started about harvesting e-mails with Scrapebox:
Using Apps for More than Just a $3 Sale
Apps are getting bigger and bigger. Previously just used as a revenue generation model, popular apps also serve as an effective promotional vehicle.
1. Mobile Apps
Consider what Smart Passive Income has done with the app for his blog. He’s integrated himself on the cellphones of his most rabid fans and keeps them hooked.
A lot of larger brands are doing this as well and the smartest ones are pulling revenue directly out of its app users. One example is Snapdeal which gets over half of its sales through their mobile app. Another good example of this is the Japanese Craigslist-style app called Mercari which has a huge userbase in Japan for people buying and selling used goods.
2. Web-Based Apps
‘If you’re an active internet marketer you probably use free web-based apps on the daily. If you’re an SEO, where would we be without stuff like Open Link Profiler, Pingdom’s Site Speed Tool, or some of the free tools from Moz?
Return visitors use the free tools available, they tell their friends, and traffic avalanche ensues. Some of them happen to sign-up for premium services and all of a sudden a business is created from something that was promoted for free.
3. 3rd Party Apps
One word: Farmville.
Getting Your Voice Out There with Podcasts
I have never been a big fan of podcasting because I like the written word too much, but for the sake of comprehensiveness it would be criminal if I didn’t include it here.
Entrepreneur on Fire is a great example of some folks building a huge businesses out of podcasting. With 250k Soundcloud subscribers, they’ve got to be generating a hefty amount of traffic just through that channel alone. Their revenue numbers prove the effectiveness of the podcast model, which hit close to $250k net in July 2014. The majority of their income came from their infoproduct and private forum membership. Pretty insane numbers.
Contests: When All Else Fails, Throw Money at the Crowd
There’s a great post here about growing an e-mail list to 200k with a contest.
Contests seem to be something everyone is receptive to regardless of niche. If you think about it, contests are just a form of gambling with a free entry. Gambling effects the brain like a drug. If you think this is bullshit, consider all of the sweepstakes websites like this one out there dedicated to just publishing contests so people can compulsively enter them hoping to win something…anything.
If you happen to be in a niche dominated by women then give contests a good consideration. Shareable contests are a great way to broaden your brand’s reach in a short time-frame. Some beauty and mommy blogs do this almost regularly, I’ve even seen it done on beauty-niched Youtube channels quite a few times. Check out this article about running contests on Pinterest.
Newsjacking: Piggybacking Current News Like a Pro
Newsjacking is a new term for something Google Trends parasites have been doing for as long as I can remember.
It’s really caught on lately with the lean startup crowd because of just how viral a successful newsjacking can become. Check out this case study for Cash for Purses when they did a bit of newsjacking when Lindsey Lohan started hitting rock-bottom and was selling off her beloved designer purse collection.
Newsjacking is at its best when it’s combined with the press release strategies I mentioned above.
Here’s a pretty good 4 minute video on newsjacking with a couple more case studies mentioned.
Guest Posting: How to Stalk Influencers for the Best Posts
I recently did a pretty big manual outreach campaign (1,000-2,000 blogs) across a wide variety of verticals and was surprised by just how much some blogs want to charge for guest posts on very crappy no-traffic and no-metric blogs (interestingly enough, especially in the travel niche). The industry is so big now that a lot of blogs are created with the sole purpose to bring ad revenue via sponsored guest posts. These are the kinds of blogs you want to avoid; all guest posts are not created equal.
The alternative is to look at sites like MyBlogGuest but unfortunately Google gave them a back-handed bitch slap not long ago after scraping their public guest-post friendly blog directory. Google basically doled out punishments like they were putting down a rebellion in ancient Rome.
However, don’t let this dissuade you. When it’s done well, guest posting can be more than an amazing backlink and will actually give you some lasting referral traffic too.
There’s quite a few solid guest posting case studies online, this one is pretty good: How I Used Guest Blogging to Grow a Site’s Search Traffic by 342.35% in One Year.
I’ve also shared traffic results of what just 4 guest posts do after their posted to a site that built no other links afterwards:
How to Connect to the Best Bloggers
I’m a firm believer that you get the best guest posts with online stalker behavior. Sound weird, right? Let me explain.
Drop their blogs into your favorite feed reader and comment on their posts religiously. After a while they’ll become familiar with who you are and you can approach them for a post.
This is what I basically call “Stalker Outreach”. lol.
Always Review the Quality of Your Marketing Channels
Traffic from all channels is NOT the same. I can tell you from experience that visitors from some sites will be engaged for much longer, visit more pages, and send you more business than visitors from other very similar channels. It’s VITAL that you’re tracking these kinds of referral and conversion statistics so you know where you should be appropriating your promo time and money. Remember the 80/20 rule.
The Most Ironic Thing About Building Traffic Without Google
Sometimes trying to get organic Google traffic is like trying to pick up girls. The harder you try the more difficult it becomes. However, once you stop trying to appease Google’s whims and start focusing on different channels, Google will love you more.
This is especially the case for some SEOs who just don’t have any idea what they’re doing. There is a minority who are experts at nothing more than shooting themselves in the foot. I see it time and time again (“I tanked my clients website with $5 spam blasts from Fiverr to my clients website, what do I do now?”).
If you find yourself in a position where every site you work on ends up getting little-no traction in SERPs or just keeps getting penalized (purposely churn-and-burn of course doesn’t count), then take this entire article to heart and consider starting some marketing experiments.
Keep me updated with your progress, leave a question, or share your experience in the comment section below.