It’s a question every website owner has, “How do I drive traffic to my website?”
Paying for traffic (advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, et al) isn’t feasible for most business owners I know who are bootstrapping their brand and don’t have thousands or even hundreds to spend. (That includes me, by the way.)
The alternative–earning organic traffic–is equally expensive: only you’ll be paying with time, patience, and a whole lot of sweat equity.
Traffic isn’t something you just get, it’s something you have to work for.
The good news is, like all things, there’s working hard and there’s working smart. So let’s talk about the different types of traffic you can work for. Some traffic strategies are more valuable and worth more of your focus and attention.
Free Traffic Strategy #1: Traffic You Chase
I call it traffic you chase because it means you have to actively share your links with an audience so people can click on them, and after a period of time, your links will no longer be in front of them so you’ll have to repeat the process over and over again.
This primarily takes place on social media and on websites and directories that curate content in your niche.
Post to Social Media
Think of your social media profiles like distribution channels for your content. Each time you create a new piece of content, you’ll want to share it to all of your social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Instagram, et al.
I know you know this.
But it’s important to emphasize that there’s an expiration date on this kind of traffic.
Social media is all about keeping fresh content in front of its users, so after a certain period of time nobody’s going to see your links and you’ll have to re-post that content and keep “chasing” that traffic.
For example, on Twitter, most engagement happens within an hour of Tweeting, the lifespan is very short.
If you’re planning to use social media to drive traffic to your site, using a social media scheduler to automate this process is key because you’ll want to keep recycling that content and share it regularly.
Submit Links To Content Curation, Social Bookmarking & Industry News Sites
Other places where you can distribute your content include:
- Content curation sites like Zest.is
- Social bookmarking sites like Pocket, Flipboard, Digg, Mix, and Listl.ly
- Industry news sites in your niche. For example, https://www.webdesignernews.com/
Again, these sites will keep fresh content at the top for their users, so while you may see a boost in traffic when your submission is added, it’s kind of a one-time thing and eventually, those clicks will stop happening until you submit something new again.
‘Traffic You Chase’ Pros & Cons
PROS: You’re building awareness, staying visible, and in the case of social bookmarking and directories–building backlinks (which is good for SEO)
CONS: It’s hard-won traffic and can take a lot of time (especially if you’re not using automation)
It’s important to be visible on social media for a myriad of reasons (awareness-building, promotional campaigns, etc.) but driving traffic is a tough game, even if you have a large following these days. People are exposed to thousands of links every day and they can’t click on all of them.
Free Traffic Strategy #2: Share Links With Other People’s Audiences
The idea here is that you’ll get in front of other people’s audiences so you can share links back to your site.
This can take the form of:
- Being a guest on a podcast
- Writing a guest blog post on an industry website or authority blog in your niche
- Reaching out to influencers and inviting them to collaborate (e.g. on an “expert roundup” blog post) so they’ll share your post with their audience on social media
Other People’s Audiences Pros & Cons
PROS: When you get visible on other people’s websites, it means you’ll be creating high-value backlinks–which is going to help boost your domain authority and SEO. It’s also going to dramatically expand your reach and help you build your reputation as a go-to expert.
CONS: It takes time to create amazing content that will exist on websites that are not yours, so you’ll want to be selective in who you partner with… and that generally means you’ll need to establish a solid reputation as an authority first before you’ll be accepted to contribute to the types of sites that will really benefit you. (I don’t recommend spending a whole bunch of time creating content for other websites unless they have a higher domain authority than yours.)
Free Traffic Strategy #3: Evergreen Traffic
Evergreen traffic means your content is “discoverable.” Here, your audience is actively looking for content that will help them solve a problem and yours just needs to be in the right place at the right time with the right answers.
It takes more effort up front, but you’ll enjoy long-term rewards.
This primarily takes the form of:
SEO is a big subject and there are a lot of misconceptions about it, so let’s break it down to its simplest form:
Getting your website discovered in SERP (search engine results page) means you’re providing relevant content that answers the questions people are searching for. Focus on answering questions humans have, and you’ll be well on your way to getting traffic from Google.
It isn’t about stuffing your content with keywords in strategic places, it’s about creating the type of content that answers those questions well. But here’s the key: keyword and topic research is how you’re going to find out what questions people have.
If you are creating content that nobody’s searching for–at least in the way they’re thinking about it and describing it in their search query–you’re not going to get traffic from search.
You want to be creating content you already know people need using keyword phrases that reflect the way they’re thinking about it
What are the actual words they’re using or likely to use?
I don’t have a big, major authority blog, but I enjoy healthy search traffic and rank #1 on several keyword search queries. I have landed clients who have found me through search.
My #1 priority here on this site is to always be answering questions my dream clients have with my content. You don’t want to “write for Google,” you want to write for people.
But when I have a topic I want to write about, I use SEMScoop (you can test it for free, but you can use my code SAVE20LT to save 20% on a subscription plan if you do sign up) to research keyword phrases and related phrases and to analyze the highest-ranking articles for those keywords (to see how I can do it differently or better).
- What are the titles of the articles that rank high?
- How is the URL formatted?
- What kind of information is in those articles? How can I put my own spin on it or make it better?
- How competitive are those keyword phrases?
- Are there any related keyword phrases that I have a better chance to rank for?
The pages that rank #1 on Google average around 1,800 words.
If SEO is your goal, it’s generally better to write one epic, well-researched blog post that’s 1,800 words than three 600-word posts that don’t go into too much depth on the topic. But again, don’t just stuff your articles with extra words to please Google.
One thing I love about SEMScoop is they give you the word count you need to have a chance to rank (see the far right column).
I also use BuzzSumo–which will give you an idea of content that people share most on social media. These are topics people are interested in and get their attention.
Once you’ve written a helpful article you know people will be searching for, optimize it further…
Headlines are crucial for SEO If you want to rank high for a specific keyword phrase, that keyword phrase should be in your headline. But sometimes just sticking a keyword phrase into a headline sounds awkward or unclear: don’t do it. Unclear headlines are not “click-worthy” for humans.
Spend a little time on your headlines and Google and the humans using Google will reward you.
I use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer Tool to help me refine headlines Google will love, but I also look at the high-ranking pages from SEMScoop and BuzzSumo to see which headlines seem most “clickable,” then I put my spin on them.
Images should be optimized too. And that’s something people frequently neglect. 1/3 of all Google searches are from images, so there’s an opportunity to get your content discovered in the “images” tab.
Further Reading: Optimize Your Images For Google Search, Social Media and Pinterest
Fine-Tune The Details With Yoast The Yoast SEO Plugin will help you optimize your posts further and will give you a “green light” if you’re doing the things Google rewards.
BUT! A green light doesn’t guarantee results, and you don’t want to follow that guidance to the point where you’re writing for Google rather than humans.
And I just have to say this because I see it a lot: just installing the Yoast plugin doesn’t “SEO” your website...
ou have to actually use the plugin and change your content according to its recommendations on each and every piece of content for it to be of any benefit.
This is my #1 source of traffic and my primary area of focus. Notice that I get more traffic from Pinterest than Google and all other social media traffic combined.
(“t.co” is Twitter, just FYI)
My ultimate traffic dream goal is to get better results from Google so that it becomes my #1 source, but you first have to build up authority in Google’s eyes and the competition is fierce, so that’s going to take some time.
A lot of people think of Pinterest as a social media site where ladies look for recipes or decorating tips and not for business…
But Pinterest has changed since its early days and has become a resource and a traffic powerhouse for all types of online businesses–from professional bloggers to those selling products online and even for people selling services.
No matter what your niche, chances are there are people are searching for it on Pinterest. Which makes it… you guessed it … a search engine.
There’s a social bookmarking component to it as well, which means that you can grow an audience filled with people who are interested in your content. When they share (or “pin”) it, their audience may see it too.
When a pin goes “viral”, you can experience a huge surge of traffic to your content.
While it takes some consistent effort to make Pinterest work (you have to spend time on the platform to be seen as a “high-quality pinner” and be rewarded in their feed), I’ve listed Pinterest under “evergreen” traffic and here’s why…
A pin can go viral at any time. Even a year after you pin it to Pinterest!
And if your pins are optimized properly (see Optimizing Images for Social Media, Google Search & Pinterest), your pins will be “discoverable” long after you’ve pinned them.
Here’s an older pin of mine that comes up at the top when people search for information on having a “location independent business”…
In fact, there are two pins of mine pointing to the same blog post–each with a different design. That’s one great thing about Pinterest, they actually encourage you to create multiple pins for each piece of content–giving you a second chance to get your audience’s attention by tweaking the design or even the headline.
Since it’s a highly visual medium, you’ll be “competing” with other pin designs and you want yours to stand out.
If you want great results from Pinterest, take some time to learn how it works
It isn’t like other social media and it isn’t like Google either, it’s its own beast.
I found out the hard way that it isn’t as simple as creating an account and adding some Pins to it.
Here’s a comparison of what I was doing on Pinterest this time last year — when I had no clue what I was doing and was being completely willy-nilly on Pinterest… and where I’m at this year by comparison.
The KEY metric to pay attention to is not that big old 100,000 monthly viewers number, it’s the “average monthly engaged.” These are people who are saving my pins and clicking through to my website.
And I should note, too, that I have had clients book me after discovering my content on Pinterest. “I found you through Pinterest” is the REAL metric that matters.
How I got started using Pinterest for my business — what worked and what didn’t
The way I got started was reading a bunch of blog posts promising me MASSIVE! TRAFFIC! from Pinterest. I took the advice and switched to a business account, started pinning my content regularly, made my pins as attractive as possible, and got… crickets.
Nobody clicked or reshared anything. Ever. Zero. Nada.
Then I read lots of “Why you’re not getting results on Pinterest” blog posts that told me that my designs sucked, or that my content sucked. But I’m a designer and consider myself a fairly decent writer and I knew there had to be more to it than that.
Months went by and I finally said, you know what? This Pinterest thing is FAKE NEWS, it’s not possible. I was *this close* to giving up.
But giving up isn’t a thing that comes easy for me, so I decided to give it one last effort, cleared some time and really dug in.
I learned how the smart feed works (how the Pinterest algorithm works) and what it rewards, and I started over and tried again. After a few weeks of applying consistent effort, I finally started to see some traction.
Take A Good Pinterest Course
If I had it to do all over again? I would have invested in a step-by-step foundational course so I wasn’t wasting my time being willy-nilly or scouring blog posts that promised some surface-level tips but didn’t really paint the whole picture.
For that, I recommend Sandra Clayton of ConversionMinded.com’s Pinterest courses.
I’ve taken both Pinterest Traffic Launchpad which I completed during a long lunch break and I would recommend to someone just starting out, and the more in-depth Pinterest Traffic Bootcamp, which I took in order to go deeper, refine in my strategy, and to amplify my results.
Probably the biggest lesson I learned is that Pinterest is very eager to support business users and high-quality pinners, and the way they determine that is 1) engagement on your pins and 2) how active you are on the platform.
But when you’re running a business, you don’t have time to be on Pinterest all day (and it’s easy to get “sucked in” — there’s so much eye candy and things to learn you can really get lost!)
To solve that problem, I recommend using the Pin scheduling tool Tailwind, which is an approved partner for Pinterest. Tailwind will allow you to be active on the platform every day without having to actually be on the platform every day.
For example, I currently have over 600 pins scheduled to go to my Pinterest boards over the next six weeks! I don’t have to sit down and schedule my pins for weeks.
This is also where you’ll discover high-quality content to pin from other content creators within your “tribes”. Tribes are a special feature of Tailwind that allows you to join groups in your niche — your Tribes become your sharing possie.
You share great content from your Tribe and your Tribe mates will share yours to. This dramatically expands your reach on Pinterest!
Here’s what that looks like just to give you an example … in one Tribe alone, I’ve received over 300 reshares and reached over 1M people! 😮
It’s not 100% “set it and forget it” because you still have to keep repinning your content, but once you get a system going, you can do it efficiently and in batches.
Evergreen Traffic Pros & Cons
PROS: It’s content that’ll be discovered by people actively seeking out your content… potentially forever. People who discover you through search are already aware that they need your solution, so they tend to be closer to the sale than people you’ll reach through social media.
CONS: It can take some digging into and there’s a bit of a learning curve, but again, you only have to learn best practices and fundamentals once and you’ll enjoy the rewards of that knowledge forever.
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.