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12 ways to attract users to your website

19-09-2013, Category Online Advertising

How to increase website traffic? Here is a set of effective methods for any budget.

A beautiful website presenting an attractive offer, based on a modern CMS and optimized for conversion. A potentially excellent tool to generate leads or even online sales. What is most often missing and prevents it from serving the commercial purpose it is made for? Users – the traffic in a volume that when it’s multiplied by the conversion rate it gives a specific result.
Of course it’s about a targeted internet traffic, i.e. users that belong to the target group of the website. Nobody cares about casual users whose visits will last a few seconds and their only effect will be a decrease in conversion rate.

free-air
Photo by: Stefan Andrej Shambora

Regardless of what budget you have – even if you can invest only your own time – using the methods described below will let you increase the traffic on your website and, consequently, improve its results.

1. Valuable content

The most effective way to attract users is at the same time the least costly. It consists in sharing your knowledge with users – the knowledge you have anyway or the knowledge you have access to.
If you regularly publish content on your website that is valuable for your target group, it will work in your favor in several ways at the same time:

  • it attracts an increasingly higher volume of organic traffic from Google,
  • it implicates an increase in the number of incoming external links and social signals (likes),
  • it expands the reach of your website by social media in which the website is shared,
  • it makes users spend more time on the website,
  • it enables you to establish contacts with potential clients and the media (a discussion in comments) and even to regularly communicate (a newsletter),
  • it helps build the brand image.

2. Website optimization

A little technical support is necessary for your priceless content to bring the best effects possible.
You have to be sure that Google will find it, index it and display it in the search results in a proper way (so that users are encouraged to click).
Website structure should also be optimized for social networking services – so that the content when shared looks the way you want it to. It’s about an appropriate title, a summary and a thumbnail of image.
This type of optimization is not a one-off action because both Google and social media are constantly developing and changing their procedures.

A separate issue is being compatible with mobile devices. An increasingly greater proportion of internet traffic is generated with smartphones and tablets. This is now 15% on average [source: mobify.com].
Optimization for small screens means you have to make a set of alternative mobile templates for the website or prepare basic templates in the “responsive design” technology, i.e. being able to dynamically adapt to the screen width.

3. Social bookmarking

Websites like del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, reddit or digg are very popular among users, but still not everyone realizes their marketing potential.

To obtain the highest possible traffic from social bookmarking websites you need to:

  • make sure that the content you promote has a good (click-provoking) title and summary,
  • have the buttons of selected websites in a prominent place around the content on your website,
  • add content to websites shortly after it’s published, at a proper time (e.g. around 3:00 p.m. CST) and to a proper category,
  • be an active user, vote on the content that is published by others and build a community around your profile.

4. Social media

While opinions about the effectiveness of f-commerce (i.e. online sales on Facebook) vary, nobody doubts social networking services are capable of generating high traffic.
First of all, you need to decide which social networking service will be the most appropriate, which means its topics and target group must be suitable.
Almost everyone uses Facebook, Twitter is used by a bit more sensible users, Google+ is mainly bloggers and Pinterest is dominated by women. As far as LinkedIn is concerned – I will come back to it below in a separate paragraph because of its specifics.
It may have been a bit unfair of me to skip YouTube, which of course is very popular but not in the social sphere. Films from YT are shared, judged and commented on much more on Facebook than on YouTube itself.

Attracting users from social networking services (and in particular from Facebook) involves two main actions:

  • you run an official brand profile where you publish your own content, add links to uncompetitive content from other sources and stimulate discussion (everything in order to expand the reach by fans sharing our content)
  • you organize competitions that let you make the best use of the social character of the net (and get to participants’ contacts).

5. Freebies and virals

People like being given something for free. It’s worth considering whether you can give them something more than a free access to your content on the blog. If it’s possible for you try to give away a free product or service on your website. If that’s too much you may share a free online tool that could be useful for the users from your target group. Any calculator or a simulator. It’s highly probable that such kind of “ free distribution” will not only increase the conversion rate but also make the users tell their friends about your website. It may even be that a blogger or a journalist will mention it.

If your website already has a lot of valuable content consider preparing an e-book which would be based on it and of course would be free. You can distribute it outside of your website and add it to popular websites with e-books.

Much more difficult to achieve but often bringing results that exceed all expectations is the viral effect. It’s such a good material that it starts an avalanche of sharing and with a basically no cost of emission it reaches an audience of thousands or even millions.
There were many people who tried to puzzle out or even measure the attributes of a good “viral”. They were identified to some extent and it’s good to pay attention to them but unfortunately there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the desired effect if you have them in your material.

The characteristics of viral material:

  • exceptional (one of a kind, unique),
  • funny (amusing),
  • moving,
  • controversial (silly, disgusting, dangerous),
  • weird (absurd),
  • useful,
  • referring to current events and trends.

And one more feature, which doesn’t give the viral effect but is necessary for it be: high quality of the material.

The best “viruses” are video materials. Unfortunately, it costs quite a lot to prepare a really good movie. And at the same time it’s a great risk because you can’t predict whether the virus will work.
But you may try to “raise” a little bit more simple virus – in the form of static graphics. I don’t mean memes or cat pictures but infographics. Choose a hot topic from your business, collect some interesting data and give them to a graphic designer to present them attractively. Add your brand in the footer and publish them on your website. It’s best when you immediately put an “embed code” at the bottom; bloggers will be able to put your infographics on their blogs using this code. Don’t forget about social bookmarking and social media. You may also directly contact popular bloggers that deal with similar topics – if the infographics is good nobody will say no to reliable and free content.

6. Guest blogging

Guest blogging is a technique you can use in two different ways.
Firstly, publish your content on other blogs, obtain valuable incoming links (from websites whose topics match yours) and establish a dialogue with new users.
Secondly, obtain good content from authors who want to publish on your website. That will also bring you additional traffic because an author always promotes its guest texts using their own channels.

This type of cooperation is the most natural between websites which already are in a relation. That means you need to start from partners or maybe even clients.
Then create a page on your blog where you will invite to such cooperation. Let authors come forward with topics.
Finally, look for blogs with similar topics that accept third party posts and contact them.

7. Comment marketing

Using comments under articles for marketing purposes may be (wrongly) associated with spam in comments. Spam robots register on blogs and add automatic (nonsensical) comments only to get a link, although a great majority of links in comments are “nofollow”, i.e. they don’t count in Google rankings.

Marketing comments are to present the commenting person as a competent person that represents a serious brand while taking part in a matter-of-fact discussion. Such comments that add real value to the discussion often make readers click the author and visit their website.

The other side of comment marketing is participation in discussions under your own content. It’s very important to respond to all comments and to do it as quickly as possible. An article under which users ask questions and never get any answer can really spoil the whole effect.

A completely different issue is the moderating of comments and fighting trolls but that’s a subject for a separate post.

8. Acting as an expert

What would you rather click: a banner with an advert of an online shop selling loudspeakers or a link in the footer under an opinion of an expert in audio systems? That’s the point.
Another way to use the knowledge you have is being actively present on discussion forums, on Q&A type websites (e.g. quora.com) and in thematic groups in business social networking services like LinkedIn.
That’s really not difficult (although it requires time). Read what problems people have, start taking part in discussions and simply try to help.
Don’t persist in promoting your offer (but show it in the footer/subtitle). If someone asks for links or propositions then make a suggestion but emphasize it that you are associated with a specific company.
Never ever pretend your own satisfied client.

If there is no forum whose topics are connected with your business then this might be a unique opportunity for you to start such a forum on your own. The cost won’t be high because that’s only a matter of implementing one of proven open-source type platforms, configuring it and changing the looks of it.
An administrator/moderator of a forum just because of its function is perceived as an expert. And a forum that is “sponsored” by your company is not only a source of relevant traffic but is also beneficial to the brand image.

9. Promoting the address

Show the URL address of your website wherever possible.
First of all, in the e-mail footer, which is often an underestimated advertising space. It’s true that your clients already know you if they correspond with you. But you don’t send emails only to them, do you? What’s more, your messages are not infrequently forwarded – and so is your signature.
Show the website address on your business cards (which rarely inform people about your company undertakings), letterhead, offers or folders.
Use your company cars as mobile billboards (a small hint here: the URL address itself without any description can hardly encourage anyone to enter any website). Put the URL of the website on a signboard facing the street. Your workers wear work clothes? Etc.

Intensive promotion of the website address in the off-line sphere may seem a bit guerilla-like but, as I wrote at the beginning, we speak about methods for any budget.

10. Affiliate marketing

I wrote about affiliate marketing in the article “Affiliate Marketing and Affiliate Programs” so I won’t explain here what it’s about.
A well-prepared affiliate program may be an inexpensive source of quite high traffic on your website. Still, this will not always be relevant traffic. Everything depends on whether you will accept all partners or only the websites with similar topics that can be scarce.
The decision you have to take is whether to build your own mechanism of the program or to connect to an existing affiliate network. It’s more costly to build your own program but in return you get full control over it and the commission you pay is received in full by partners (and not agents). On the other hand, an affiliate network ensures you reach hundreds of potential partners which are difficult to obtain on your own initiative.

For the program to bring expected profits (increased web traffic and above all new leads or sales being generated) you have to provide:

  • a good offer that can be easily promoted by partners,
  • attractive creations (banners and content of text links) that will catch users’ eyes and persuade them to click,
  • fair commission (of 20-50%),
  • clear rules and quick payments,
  • active care (it’s very important to regularly contact partners and not only react).

11. Public Relations

When reading about contacts with the media, what probably comes to your mind is sending press releases. Forget about it.
If you are not a well-known brand of a large corporation your news must be really ground-breaking to be published (see “viruses” above).
That doesn’t mean, however, that your activity doesn’t stand a chance of being present in the media. No, quite the contrary. You only have to build relations with journalists.
Contact them even before you have anything important to publish. Offer your help as an expert, a readiness to quickly express an opinion if need be. If you are implementing point 8 above you will have it easier because you will show a few links to prove your credibility.
If you talk with editors-in-chief or section editors offer some interesting content for their title. Tell them you will be happy to write an article about what you know from time to time – of course for free. Trust me, it works.
And when you need to inform the market about anything, send a well-prepared piece of information to your press contacts together with a question whether there is any chance of including it in the news. They’d rather use your text and not a press release taken from a mass email sent by a person they completely don’t know.

12. Advertising

For many people this is the most obvious thing to do and the last on my list. Still, I mention it here because when advertising is well organized it can really work.
Only advertisers with really fat wallets can derive benefits from classic banner ads charged per view. Web portals or media houses prepare such an offer for them that the campaign at least pays for itself. But they also depart from standard advertising and more and more often force publishers to run untypical actions, like starting special websites, organizing contests etc.

I suggest you should try two types of online advertising actions:

Performance marketing, i.e. charging for specific actions taken by users. With a CPA (cost per action) model you will pay for a given number of actions you want to occur, e.g. completions of contact forms, file downloads or registrations. Following on, a campaign may run on a CPS (cost per sale) model where you pay for sale events. This is almost an affiliate program but campaigns that are 100% based on CPS are rarely carried out. It’s most often the case that CPS forms a hybrid with CPM (cost per mille) or CPC (cost per click).
A certain type of performance marketing is a popular CPC model, which may prove the best, if your main aim is to increase the traffic on your website. A good agency that specializes in SEM (search engine marketing) will be able to generate with your budget quite a number of clicks from Google or other networks (e.g. 7search.com).
Of course you may try to configure and run the campaign on your own but when you don’t have the knowledge and experience of people who deal with that on an everyday basis you also don’t have a chance to obtain such effects as they can.

Flat-fee niche marketing – thanks to such networks as BuySellAds, you can have ads on the websites of your own choice (that are a perfect match to your target group) paying a flat fee for a specified emission time (e.g. a week). The majority of websites that participate in networks are blogs and web forums of a very different scale. As is the case with the size (popularity) of websites, the prices of adverts also vary much. And that’s why there’s something for everyone.

What to choose?

I listed the above suggestions not in a random order. I believe that the actions mentioned in the beginning are more important and effective. If you have used them and need more, try the next ones.
Of course, not every tactic will work in every case. For example, in B2B it’s much more difficult to get something out of Facebook than in B2C, whereas affiliate programs work better in e-commerce than for generating leads.
The choice is yours. Add a bit of common sense and imagination to your actions and you will surely achieve results.

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