10 No-Cost Ways to Generate Site Traffic

Turn your site into a visitor magnet and attract swarms of qualified traffic with our top 10 free traffic generation tactics.

By Corey Rudl

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

No matter how cool your site or how fabulous your product,you're not going to generate enough sales to make your businessviable unless you can generate traffic. You have to get the wordout about your site and give people a reason to visit it, or elseyou'll go the way of the dinosaur.

The good news is, there are lots of ways to effectivelyadvertise your site online and drive tons of qualified traffic toyour site, all for free! And by qualified, I mean people who belongto your target market and who are most likely to buy the productsor services you offer. These are the people you want coming to yoursite.

Without further ado, here's our countdown of the top 10traffic-generating tactics:

Traffic Generation Tactic #10: Use viral marketing strategiesto "infect" people with the desire to learn more aboutyour product. These days, viral marketing messages arespreading through the Web like wildfire. Viral marketing is anytype of advertising that is self-perpetuating, compelling people toshare it with others so that it spreads through a community like avirus-but a good one.

The story of Hotmail.com is a textbook example of viralmarketing on the Internet. Hotmail was one of the first free e-mailservices on the Web. In its first year and a half in business,Hotmail managed to sign up an incredible 12 million subscribers!How did it accomplish this? Simple: At the end of every e-mail,Hotmail included the following message: "Get your private,free e-mail at http://www.hotmail.com," encouraging everyone whoreceived an e-mail to sign up for the free service themselves.

Large companies use viral marketing messages to perpetuateawareness of their brand, often by creating humorous videos oranimation clips that people send to their friends for a laugh. Somesmaller companies have also used this strategy successfully. Anexample is Homestar Runner, a small business that's created aset of cartoon characters and animated shorts that circulate aroundthe Web, encouraging people to visit the main site and buy thecompany's merchandise.

If you like to play around with video or animation, you mightthink about adopting this strategy to generate interest in your ownproduct. Just keep in mind that it can be very difficult todetermine the exact return on investment for viral marketingcampaigns, since it's impossible to keep track of where the adgoes. And while this type of marketing is good for generatinginterest in your site and products, it doesn't always translateinto immediate sales.

To see more examples of viral marketing, check out the followingsites (Warning: Part of the popularity of some viral ads is their"cheeky" or risqué nature. Some viral ads containmaterial that viewers may find offensive.):

  • ViralBank. Go here to discover "the web'smost entertaining e-mails." This site features images, video,games, microsites and text e-mails that have spread virally throughthe Internet.
  • ViralMeister. This site features a list of news itemsconcerning the latest viral ad campaigns as well as a sampling ofpopular viral ads circulating on the Web. Visitors are invited tosubmit "funny or cool videos, images, jokes or anecdotes"to be featured on the site.
  • Lycos ViralChart. This site offers a top 10 list of "cheeky"viral e-mails, as well as viral campaigns listed under otherheadings, such as "New Releases" and"Celebrities." Visitors are invited to submit viral adsfor review and also vote on the best campaigns.

Traffic Generation Tactic #9: Employ online businessnetworking communities to hook up with other entrepreneurs for linkswaps and joint marketing ventures. Business networkingcommunities are springing up all over the Web. They're similarto dating or social networking sites but are used by entrepreneursto find other businesspeople with whom they can establish mutuallybeneficial business relationships.

Sites like these can offer great opportunities for entrepreneursto establish joint marketing ventures with like-minded businesses,or simply to find link-swap partners who can help drive moretraffic to their sites. (We'll be looking at link swapping ingreater detail later on, in case you're not familiar with thiseffective traffic generation tactic).

Business networking communities can also help generate trafficby allowing their members to create personal profile pages withlinks to their main business sites. These links can improve asite's ranking with the major search engines.

If you decide to join a networking community, be sure to partnerwith people whose businesses are complementary to your own. Theirsites have to attract visitors who are likely to become yourcustomers as well. For example, it probably won't do you anygood to have your all-vegetarian tofu burgers featured on a cattlerancher's industry association site.

Here are some business networking communities you may want tocheck out:

Traffic Generation Tactic #8: Become a recognized name inyour niche market by participating in newsgroups, discussion forumsor blogging networks. A great way to establish an onlineidentity and develop relationships with your potential customerbase is by taking part in newsgroups and discussion forums or bystarting a blog related to your niche market. These tools can helpyou communicate directly with your target market and discover whattheir wants and needs are.

For example, if you sell mountain biking shoes, spend some timehanging out in mountain biking forums-that's where your targetmarket's going to be. Or start your own blog in which youdescribe your latest mountain biking adventures, complete withattention-grabbing photos. You could even combine the two tacticsand generate interest in your blog by mentioning it in forums andnewsgroups.

However, most newsgroups, blog networks and discussion forums donot allow people to blatantly advertise in them. If you wantto generate traffic through these sites, the best way to do it isto offer friendly, useful advice to people who express a need forsomething, and then include a subtle link to your site at the endof all your messages. If people like what you say, they may decideto visit your site and check out your products or services.

Traffic Generation Tactic #7: Get your visitors to tell theirfriends about you. A good way to drive visitors to your site isto ask your existing customer base to do it for you. There are lotsof sites that offer free "tell a friend" buttons you canplace directly on your site in order to encourage visitors to sende-mails to their friends telling them about your site.

If your site offers a free opt-in newsletter, contest, quiz or"tip of the day"-in other words, any information thatpeople will want to share because it's fun, valuable orexciting-include an "E-mail this" button in that featureas well. There's nothing more powerful than a personalrecommendation from a friend or colleague.

Here are just a few sites that offer free "tell afriend" tools:

Traffic Generation Tactic #6: Encouragerepeat visits with interactive traffic generators. One of thebest ways to get traffic to your site is to offer valuable contentthat's updated on a regular basis so that your visitors areprompted to pay frequent return visits to see what new informationyou have available. Provide content that's relevant to yourindustry, such as articles, product reviews or "how-to"advice columns-anything you think your visitors will find useful orentertaining.

As you develop your collection of written content, considerplacing it in a searchable archive so your visitors can access pastarticles and product reviews. This will encourage people to thinkof your site not only as a place where they can buy things but alsoas a valuable source of information.

You should also consider offering other free resources toattract your target audience. Remember, the most powerful word in amarketer's arsenal is "free." The more useful toolsand resources you offer your visitors, the more they'llappreciate your site.

Offer fun or helpful interactive tools that relate to thepurpose of your site. For example:

  • If you sell recipe books or kitchenware, include a measurementconverter that easily allows people to convert imperialmeasurements to metric and vice versa.
  • If you sell clothing, include a size converter that shows howthe clothing sizes compare to measurement systems used in differentcountries. (For example, a woman's size 10 in the U.S. is equalto a size 12 in the UK and a size 40 elsewhere in Europe.)
  • If you sell scuba gear or sailing goods, link to current tideand weather information.
  • If you sell books on philosophy or self-improvement, include IQtests or quizzes that determine personality types.
  • If you sell education products, include interactive math orgrammar games and other fun learning tools.

This strategy tends to be better for getting repeat traffic thanfor attracting new visitors, but if you include a "tell afriend" button with your interactive traffic generator, youmay prompt visitors to share the news about your site withothers-and get them to drive new traffic to your site for you!

Traffic Generations Tactic #5: Increase your site'sexposure by swapping links with other sites. If you want yoursite to be seen by as many potential customers as possible, try toget it mentioned on other sites they're likely to visit. Lookfor sites that are related to yours but don't compete with itdirectly.

For example, if you sell ski goggles, try to get your productmentioned on alpine tourism sites, sites that sell skis, boots andpoles, and sites that sell winter clothing-but not on other sitesthat sell ski goggles. Or if you own a souvenir shop, see if youcan get your site listed on local hotel and restaurant sites, aswell as other travel and hospitality sites tourists are likely tovisit, but not on other sites that sell souvenirs.

A great way to get your site mentioned on other sites is tocontact those sites directly and offer to "link swap"with them. (Be sure to look for sites that get a lot of traffic.)Tell them you'll put a link to their site on your site ifthey'll do the same for you. Not only will this generate a lotof increased exposure for your site, it can also boost your rankingwith the search engines.

Traffic Generation Tactic #4: Get the message out about yoursite by giving away free content. One of the best ways to makesure your site gets mentioned on other sites is to offer themvaluable free content.

Many online business owners are happy to get quality informationto put on their site or in their opt-in newsletters, so offer themsome of the regularly updated content you've posted on your ownsite (as suggested in Traffic Generation Tactic#6. By providing other sites with free articles, productreviews or advice columns, you'll be doing them a favor-as wellas increasing the exposure of your own site.

Try to get your content published on popular websites or innewsletters that have huge mailing lists. So before you offer yourcontent to any site, do a little research to discover how muchtraffic it gets or how many people subscribe to the site'sopt-in newsletter. And try to determine which sites are the"hot spots" in your niche market-that's where youwant your articles to be published.

It's important to remember that this tactic will only workif you include your contact information and a link to your site atthe end of every article. That'll make it easy for people tovisit your site and learn more about the products or services yousell, so make sure every site or e-zine that publishes your contentincludes this contact info and link.

Traffic Generation Tactic #3: Be one of the first sitespeople see listed when they search for your keywords in the freesearch engines. The free search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and MSN are still one of themost effective ways to get the word out about your site. There arelots of different techniques you can use to ensure you get a goodranking with the free search engines. For example, you can...

  • Submit your site to the free search engines and onlinedirectories.
  • Optimize your web site so that it's easily indexed bysearch engine spiders.
  • Pay close attention to your keyword inclusion andplacement.
  • Create content-rich "information pages" to directtraffic to your site.

And these are just a few tactics that will help you improve yoursearch engine ranking. You can do all this work yourself, or youcan use software that will do the job for you. (To read more aboutsearch engine optimization strategies, see "The Dos and Don'ts of SearchEngine Optimization.")

Traffic Generation Tactic #2: Use e-mail promotions topresent your visitors with offers they can't refuse. Yes,it's true: E-mail promotions are one of the top two ways toattract qualified traffic to your site. If you have a list ofcustomer or subscriber e-mail addresses, then you're ready toget started.

People who've visited your site and signed up for yournewsletter (or a contest or survey) are far more likely to buy fromyou than someone who's never heard of your site before.It's essential that you stay in touch with these people!

Encourage visitors to frequently return to your site bye-mailing them attractive promotional offers, such as e-coupons ordiscounts on new products you're offering, notification of asale or a contest you're running, or even free services orproducts you've decided to give away to a limited number ofpeople.

You can manage your mailing list and automate your e-mailpromotions using existing software programs. To learn more abouthow to build a substantial list of opt-in e-mail addresses, read"AttractingNewsletter Subscribers."

And now, the time has come for...

Traffic Generation Tactic #1: Build an army of affiliates todrive traffic to your site for you. Without a doubt, anaffiliate program is the probably the best way to increase yoursite's exposure. You can get your affiliates to drive qualifiedtraffic to your site using all the techniques we've mentionedso far, as well as other effective advertising techniques thatrequire an initial investment.

You can literally get your affiliates to do all your marketingfor you. In fact, one of my most successful clients doesn'tspend any time optimizing his site for the free search engines-helets his affiliates do it for him. Many of them go to great lengthsto make sure their sites are highly ranked, and because they alllink to his site, they boost his search engine ranking as well.

The best thing about affiliate programs is that you don'tpay your affiliates a dime for all the work they do unless theyhelp you make a sale. It really is a win-win proposition: The moresales your affiliates help you make, the more money they earn aswell.

Final Thoughts

In order to maximize your site's exposure, it's best touse a combination of the tactics listed above. For example, ifyou're sending out an e-mail promotion, you may want to includea "tell a friend" option in the e-mail so the people onyour mailing list will send the promotion to others. If you have anaffiliate program, you should ask your affiliates to post yourarticles and product reviews on their sites in order to help youbuild a reputation for yourself as an industry expert.

Remember: When it comes to online marketing, there are threewords you need to keep in mind: location, location, location. Yoursite has to be mentioned often in places where your niche markethangs out if you want your site to be seen by as many potentialcustomers as possible.

If you think you could be doing more to boost your site'straffic numbers (and really, who couldn't?), start puttingthese top 10 traffic generation tactics to work for you today-thensit back and enjoy all that free traffic coming your way.

Corey Rudl, author of Insider Secrets to Marketing YourBusiness on the Internet and founder of www.marketingtips.com, is widely recognized as anInternet marketing expert because what he teaches are nottheoretical approaches to online marketing but real examples ofwhat works.

Corey Rudl

Corey Rudl, president and founder of the Internet Marketing Center is the author of the best-selling course Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet. An internationally sought-after Internet business consultant and speaker, Corey focuses his energy on the research and development of practical, cost-effective Internet marketing strategies and software for the small and homebased business owner.

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Business News

Would You Buy Maggie Murdaugh's Monogrammed Snake Print Pillows? Items From the Murdaugh Family Home Are Going Up for Auction

The sale comes just weeks after Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the June 2021 murders of his wife, Maggie Murdaugh, and son Paul Murdaugh.

Business News

American Airlines Sued After Teen Dies of Heart Attack Onboard Flight to Miami

Kevin Greenridge was traveling from Honduras to Miami on June 4, 2022, on AA Flight 614 when he went into cardiac arrest and became unconscious mid-flight.


How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.

Business News

Jake Paul and Lindsay Lohan Fined $400,000 for 'Illegally Touting' Crypto

The SEC just disclosed that eight celebrities agreed to a massive settlement without admitting guilt.


After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.

Author Karen Inglis breaks down the strategies and tactics you need to generate awareness and sales for your self-published book.


Entice Customers to Make Additional and Larger Purchases Using These Two Tactics

With transparency, permission, and an eye on the customer's perception of value, you can knock both cross-selling and upselling out of the park.