Step 4: Give away irresistible free content for priceless publicity. Believe it or not, a really easy, frequently undervalued strategy for getting traffic is giving away free content to other websites. Even just two or three well-written articles can generate truckloads of traffic, as long as they don't contain a sales pitch. You want to include rare, hard-to-get information that'll lend your articles automatic value--the kind of information that establishes you as an expert in your field.
Once you've finished an article, write a short bio paragraph about you and your business and place it at the end of your article along with--and this is the most important part--a link to your site.
To locate sites that might be interested in your content, e-mail other website owners in your industry--be sure to choose sites that receive attention and visits from your target market--and invite them to use your article on their site or in their newsletter at absolutely no cost. Many site owners need fresh content, so they'll be more than happy to post your articles--and it won't be long before those articles start driving traffic back to your site.
Another option is to give away your articles through free content websites like these:
Your articles will automatically be made available to thousands of websites seeking free, quality content--and all you have to do is submit your articles once.
Don't underestimate the power of giving away free content. And as your articles gain more exposure, don't be surprised if you're contacted by high-profile magazine and portal sites related to your industry looking for free articles to include on their sites, too.
Step 5: Get free word of mouth publicity using viral marketing. Simply defined, viral marketing is a way for you to spread your marketing message like a virus. You encourage people to pass on information about your site to others, and you use that word-of-mouth publicity to advertise your business. Once you start the "virus," it spreads without you lifting a finger.
Need an example? Try Hotmail.com , the free web-based e-mail service provider. At the bottom of every single Hotmail e-mail sent by Hotmail members, there's a simple one-line message:
"Get your free, private email from MSN at http://www.hotmail.com"
How much time do you think it took Hotmail to include that signature line as part of their e-mail service? Not much at all--but look at the impact this simple strategy had on the growth of their business. In my personal experience, more than 35 percent of all e-mail users have Hotmail accounts!
You can easily duplicate this strategy by doing something as simple as including a "pass it on link" at the end of a free newsletter, something as simple as:
"If you've enjoyed this article, please be sure to forward it to a friend!"
By simply asking readers to take action and forward your newsletter, you'll prompt free word of mouth exposure for your business without any extra cost or hassle.
How else can you put viral marketing to work for you? Here are a few simple ideas:
- Give away free articles (like the ones I describe in Step 4) that include a "pass it on" link.
- Give away free demos of your product.
- Offer a free trial of your service with a "share this great resource" button on the page.
- Hold a contest on your site, and give participants an extra entry for every friend they refer.
- Start an affiliate program (see Step 7 below).
As you can see, you don't need to be the next Hotmail to get started with viral marketing. By simply encouraging people to "share this resource with friends," you can attract some great word-of-mouth traffic.
Step 6: Get free links on other high-traffic websites. Link requests require minimal effort from you, but they can absolutely explode your traffic numbers overnight. How? If your site is a featured link on a major site in your industry--one that receives a ton of attention--your site immediately benefits from all the exposure their site receives.
Getting started with this strategy is simple, but you should follow a standard process every time you request a link. Let's break it down into a few easy steps:
- Do a Google search for your standard keywords--the ones that people generally use to find your site.
- Make detailed notes about the sites that appear regularly in the top ten listings for your major keywords.
- Use the Alexa Toolbar , LinkPopularity or Technorati to find out what other sites these sites are linking to, whose linking to them and how much traffic they're receiving, then look up their contact information.
- Before making contact, make sure you know the correct URL for the site, the URL of the sub-page on which you want your link to appear, the name of the site owner or webmaster, the date you last visited their site, and a brief description of the contents of the site.
When you're ready to contact the owners of these website and request a link, write a personal e-mail--don't use form letters. Be sure to include some positive comments about their site, information about you and your site (along with your URL), an explanation of why a link to you would benefit them, and instructions for contacting you to get started.
You want your request to be thorough and professional. If you can present a persuasive argument for why the link request benefits both of you, you stand a better chance of forging a connection. And if you're really eager to get your link on their site, be prepared to up the ante by offering them a commission or a link on your site in return. The investment could be well worth the extra exposure your marketing message receives.
When other businesses request links on your site, my advice is, be stingy. Just as links on others' sites serve as a personal recommendation of your site, links on your site are recommendations for their businesses. Only recommend the best!
Okay, now let's talk about the ultimate linking strategy.
Step 7: Get thousands of websites to promote your business for free. Imagine hundreds, even thousands, of websites promoting your product or service without spending a dime until someone refers a paying customer. You can do this with what's called an affiliate program.
Affiliate programs--also referred to as "reseller" or "associate" programs--are a great way to get other people (called "affiliates") to promote your product or service for you. For every paying customer your affiliates refer to your site, you pay them a commission. And since you only pay when you make money, it's an extremely low-risk option.
Here's how it works: Your affiliates send visitors to your site using banner ads, text links, letters of referral and so on, while you track these referrals using special software. It's an extremely powerful way to grow your business because it automates your traffic generation. To get started with your own affiliate program, you need to:
- Establish your commissions. To keep your affiliates motivated, you should pay them 40 to 50 percent of your profits per sale.
- Get software to track the traffic and sales of your affiliates so you know what to pay them.
- Provide your affiliates with tools they can use to promote your products, such as e-mails, banners and so on.
- Recruit more affiliates. Look for sites that target your market, and invite them to become affiliates.
Affiliate programs are an ideal way to automate your traffic generation because other people are marketing your site for you. Your sales increase on a daily basis--but your affiliates do all the selling for you, and it doesn't cost you a dime until they send you paying customers.
Now, for the final step, let's talk about what you need to do to keep your traffic coming back to your site again and again.
Step 8: Use e-mail marketing to attract repeat visitors. Getting lots of traffic to your site is great, but if you aren't collecting the contact information--the names and e-mail addresses--of visitors, you're wasting every single click. If visitors leave your site without buying your product, there's a good chance they won't ever be back--and you'll have absolutely no way of following up with them.
Remember: It can take up to seven points of contact to make a single sale, so you'll want to begin collecting visitors' contact information from day one using an opt-in form on your home page. Then send them e-mail messages to follow up and keep them thinking about your site. Need some ideas for e-mails you could send to follow up with your opt-in subscribers? Try these ideas:
- Monthly or bi-weekly newsletters that include tons of tips and information
- Free reports on topics your market would appreciate
- Answers to common questions people ask about your product
- Offers for products similar or complementary to ones you may have already offered them
- Free product trials that give potential customers a taste of what you have to offer
- A "downgrade" offer for a product that's less expensive or robust than your featured offer
Following up with the addresses you gather is quick, easy and simple with e-mail management and automation software. You can create e-mail messages called "autoresponders" that potential customers receive automatically as soon as they opt-in on your site--within seconds--no matter what time of day it is or whether you're even at your desk!
That's right: As soon as your visitors opt in, they'll start hearing from you on a regular basis without you having to deal with the stress of writing a ton of e-mails to individual addresses. This is a process you can put on autopilot from the very beginning.
Obviously, we've covered a lot of ground in this article, so I think it's only fair I point out that, before you dive into any of these strategies, you'll need to do a bit more reading and research on each of these topics in order to understand these tactics in depth. What I've given you is simply a clear roadmap of exactly what you need to do first, second and third to test your website to maximize conversion rates and then roll out an effective traffic campaign that attracts swarms of potential buyers--automatically--for years to come. But reading more on each topic will help figure out exactly what you need to do for your site to make it a success.
Before I wrap up this article, I'd like to make one last point. Over the years, I've noticed a common thread that links all our most successful clients who have internet businesses: They have all focused on implementing one or two marketing strategies really well.
So don't feel like you need to become an expert in all the strategies I've covered here. Focus on becoming really proficient at one or two--because this may be all you need to dramatically increase your traffic--and sales.
Derek Gehl is Entrepreneur.com's "E-Business" columnist and the CEO of the Internet Marketing Center, an internet marketing firm that has helped thousands of people learn to start and run their own online businesses.