Improving your Website traffic is a tricky business. You can take advantage of quite a few different strategies — many won’t cost you much whereas some won’t even cost you a dime. The trick is to find the right balance of strategies and then be consistent in your efforts to draw people to your Web site.

Consistency is also a very important factor in improving the traffic to your Web site. Every day you should be plugging away at your marketing efforts, in whatever form works best for your site. Website marketing does require
constant attention, however. Pushing for a short period of time to improve your traffic but then letting the efforts fall by the wayside does no good.  Doing so might get you a temporary increase in traffic, but as soon as you stop your efforts to bring people to your site, you’ll see your traffic statistics begin to fall again.

What follows are some of the strategies that you can use to improve your Website traffic. No single strategy works for itself, but a combination of those shown here — and others that you figure out on your own along the way — gets you moving in the right direction.

#1 Great, Dynamic Content

Everyone seems to be seeking the key to more Web site content. In today’s information-driven society, great, dynamic content is the key. People are usually online because they’re looking for something — relationships, information, products, or services. Content is the way they find what they’re looking for.

Think about it. A decade or so ago, if you wanted to find information on anything, you had to go to the library or the bookstore to find that information. Today, finding what you seek is as close as your computer. Just open a Web browser, type a few words, and what you’re looking for is sitting right in front of you. Very little information can’t be found online these days.

Here’s what makes one site better than another though. When I’m looking for information online, I click into and out of a site in the time it takes most people to take a sip of coffee. That’s because I know exactly what I’m looking for, and when I don’t see it, I move on to the next search result. When I do find what I’m looking for, though, I tend to stick around. I’ll read the article that brought me to the site and then I’ll click through all the articles that are linked to it, and I might even click some of the ads shown on the page if they seem interesting. When I’m done, I bookmark the page to come back

When I do find what I’m looking for, though, I tend to stick around. I’ll read the article that brought me to the site and then I’ll click through all the articles that are linked to it, and I might even click some of the ads shown on the page if they seem interesting. When I’m done, I bookmark the page to come back later and see what’s new.

That is what good content does for a Web site — it buys you time with your site visitors and it buys you return visits. If you don’t have content with that kind of stickiness, the first thing you can do to improve your Web site is to create that content. Just remember, don’t try buying it from a content broker — someone who commissions content from writers and then resells it to Website or publication owners — if you really want something fresh and new because everyone else in your area is using the same content broker.

#2 Referral Programs

Referral programs have a couple different sides. One side of a referral program is the side on which you make money. That’s for putting referral buttons on your Web site.What if you flip that around and create your own referral program where you

What if you flip that around and create your own referral program where you pay visitors to share your site with others? You can do that — and should — if you really want to build a sizable flow of traffic to your site.

Creating a referral program isn’t too difficult. The first thing you need to do is determine what you can afford to invest in the program. Typically, those who refer your site are paid anywhere from about a penny-a-click to as much as $5 per click or more. Some referral programs promise a flat fee for any referral that results in a purchase.

Your budget is the determining factor here, but remember this: The more you pay, the more likely others will want to refer your site to their site visitors. They’re sending traffic away from their site to yours, so you must make it worth the referrers’ efforts.

Remember that for a referral program to be effective, it should also be simple. If you’re telling people you’ll only pay them a referral fee if they send someone to your site who then makes two purchases over a 60-day period, unless your site is truly amazing or the products that you offer are completely unique, not too many people will refer their visitors to you. It’s just too hard for them to earn a reward for that referral.

A referral program also has to make it easy for referrers to be connected to the people that they refer. A simple form that includes a Referred By box is okay, but it’s only as effective as the memory of the person filling out the form. A link that connects referrers to your referral program so that you can track who they refer is much more effective for the people who are spreading your name around.

Setting up an easy-to-use referral program might be more difficult on your end, but it’s worth the investment. The less work that someone has to do to refer people to you and collect a reward for that referral, the more likely he’ll use your referral program.

Amazon.com has a referral program that’s an excellent example of what really works. They provide all the tools that users need to refer others to Amazon products. All the user has to do is plug a piece of code into her blog or Web site. Amazon and the visitors clicking through the referrals do the rest of the work.

#3 Links and Linking Strategies

You wouldn’t think that the links on your site would make too much difference to the traffic on your site, but they do. The Web is an interconnected group of pages. The connection from one page to another comes in the form of a link. So, both on your site and from others’ sites, links are an essential part of drawing people in.

One of the easiest ways to begin building a linking strategy is to contact the owners of Web sites that you like and ask them for a reciprocal link. Reciprocal links are when you put a link to that site on your page in exchange for a link back to your Web site. Reciprocal linking strategies are very common on the Web.

Another way to get people to link to you is to offer something completely unique on your Web site. For some, that means adding a special download to the site that’s not available anywhere; for others, it means adding videos, podcasts, or some other element that’s completely unique. Whatever your draw is, keep it unique and fresh. A podcast or video can be effective for a few days, but after a while, it loses its effectiveness and needs to be replaced with something new.

When you have an intricate linking strategy in place (one that leads to other sites of interest and back to you from other sites), you start seeing the results of the strategy — more traffic. The linking strategy takes a little time to create, but it’s well worth the effort.

#4 Advertisements

If you haven’t already done it, check out AdWords. AdWords is the advertiser’s arm of AdSense. With AdWords, you can bid to show your advertisements based on keywords that you select. Remember: Although AdWords is an advertising program, it’s not good just for products. You can use AdWords with your services or even content Web sites, too. The point of using AdWords is to advertise your site to users who might not otherwise find you. What you sell or provide on that site is up to you.

The cool thing about AdWords is that you can set a budget that keeps you from spending way more than you have available to spend on advertising your site.

Of course, AdWords isn’t the only game in the advertising world. You can also consider banner ads or even other pay-per-click advertising options. What’s important is that you get your Web site in front of as many people as possible.

Advertising probably isn’t the most effective method of getting your name out there — positive word of mouth and great content are your best shot — but if you have some cash to spend on getting your name known, it’s definitely a strategy that you should consider.

#5 Blog Promotions

If you have a blog, you simply have to have a blog promotion. Really. Blogs are cool, but if you’re not out there promoting your blog every single day, your numbers will suck pond scum. One of the most effective types of blog promotion is simply to read and post on other people’s blogs. When you post on other people’s blogs, their readers see your post. They can click on any links that you have connected to your display name or within your comments to see your blog — in fact, you have the opportunity to include your blog URL when you post on most blogs, and you should always include it. Including your blog address gives you free exposure, just for sharing your opinion.

Blogs have become so popular that even corporations now use them to advertise products, services, and events or just to keep readers updated on what’s happening with the company. The downside though is that blogs have become so popular that every person who even thinks they might possibly have something of interest to say has a blog.

Making your blog stand out from the rest of the pack is a very difficult process. Start with a truly interesting blog — will it captivate every person on the Web? No. If you can make your blog fresh though, you can potentially gain a huge mindshare in the area in which you specialize.

After you come up with that perfect blog, you have to get the word out. Start by posting comments on other blogs, but don’t stop there. Spread the word to your friends and ask them to spread the word, too. Join mailing lists and make sure your blog address appears in the signature line for every post that you make to the list (and you do have to post to the list — preferably interesting, useful posts).

Consider other promotions, such as blog tours (where a blog author appears on several different blogs as a guest blogger), giveaways, and other contests.

Be creative, but also think in terms of what appeals to potential blog readers. If your blog is about a group of teens that are band groupies, a contest where the giveaway is a copy of War and Peace might not be the best idea. If the prize in your contest is a $25 iTunes card, the response could be much more than you even dare to hope for.

As with all types of promotions, think outside the box. Better yet, think of a way to create a whole new box.

#6 Publicity and Public Relations

All too often, publicity and public relations are all lumped into the same category of advertising. From where I sit, publicity and public relations are two different things. Publicity is free, and it includes coverage from other media sources, including newsletters, newspapers, radio stations, television, or whoever else may pick up word of what you’re doing.

On the Web, publicity usually takes the form of word-of-mouth type publicity.  Someone sees your Web site and then tells someone else who happens to have a blog, so that person writes a blog post about it, which is then picked up by other bloggers, and it then catches the eye of some radio host or newspaper journalist who then runs a brief article or makes mention of your site to their audience.

You get the picture — and that’s really a best-case scenario.

Did you know that you can influence publicity, too? You can — by getting the name of your Web site in front of as many people as possible. One way to do that is to write articles that are complete and ready to run, and then distribute them to news outlets, newsletter owners, other Web site owners, or anyone else who has a publication and might be interested in your site. The catch is that to run the article you provide (for free), the publication must also run a short blurb about you, including your Web site address.

That takes care of publicity. Public relations, on the other hand, deals with how you handle people, especially in a public setting. You can put that to work for your Web site, too. Public relations can be the donations that you make (in the name of your Web site) to charity organizations, or it can be you taking the time to teach about your topic within your community. Guess what? Just putting your knowledge to use by answering questions posed by folks in search of answers can count as public relations.

Creating a relationship with the public is what public relations are all about. When you use public relations — along with publicity — to get your Web site in front of people, you’re building your traffic levels (which in turn helps build your AdSense revenues). Creating public relations and publicity is a time-consuming process, though, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can spend ten minutes here and there and immediately see results.

Professionals set aside several hours each week to devote to public relations and publicity efforts. You should do the same if you’re truly serious about creating a real brand with your Web site that people will think of and recognize when they consider topics related to your site and products. (Creating a brand simply means making your Web site or blog immediately recognizable, just like other products [Pepsi, Kleenex, Saran Wrap] are immediately recognizable. The goal is to be the first site or blog that comes to mind when your topic or product is considered.)

#7 Lead Generation and Follow-Up

One thing that Web site owners don’t often think of in terms of driving traffic to their sites is lead generation. Lead generation in this context is nothing more than the process by which you gather the names and e-mail addresses of people who may be interested in your Web site or blog — these are all potential visitors. And following up on those leads is how you convert those potential visitors into actual visitors. Lead generation takes place in several different ways. For some sites, it’s a newsletter sign-up, but for others, it’s a contest or promotion that you e-mail to a mailing list you purchased from a marketing company.

How can generating leads help you build traffic on your site? It’s easy, really. If you’re collecting leads, you can keep your site in front of potential visitors more often.

That does require follow-up, though. Although some Web site owners are great at collecting leads, they don’t do much with them — you should. If you have a collection of people who have willingly given you their e-mail address, you should be using that address as often as you can to keep in touch with those potential visitors.

Many Web site owners do collect e-mail addresses (which in this case are your leads). Having folks sign up for a newsletter is one of the most popular harvesting methods out there. You can also collect the e-mail addresses of visitors when they register for your site or when they purchase goods or services from you.

However you collect the addresses, they’re no good to you if they just sit on a list doing nothing. After you have your e-mail addresses, use them to put your name in front of those people — and the more helpful you can be in the process, the better it is for your Web site.

Here’s an example: One Web site owner collects people’s e-mail addresses for a newsletter. The newsletter goes out without fail (consistency is key with newsletters) every two weeks. That same Web site owner also sends out a message about once a month that contains tips that the readers can use immediately to improve their business.

This type of extra information — service above and beyond the call of duty — is what helps build traffic for the Web site. When potential visitors turn to the area that the site addresses, that site is, of course, the first site to come to mind because the Web site owner has kept the site’s name in front of them as often as possible.

Keep in mind this fact though: It’s absolutely essential that the communications you have with your potential visitors be useful. Sales, extra information, even contest announcements are useful. Just sending a note to say hello? Nothing useful about that at all and users won’t appreciate it.

The idea is to create a feeling of appreciation so that you’re first in the visitor’s mind when she thinks of the area that you serve. Being first means more Web site traffic for you.

#8 Contests

Contests are a great way to bring traffic to your Web site. Everyone loves a good contest, especially when the prizes are neat.

Deciding what the prizes are for your contest is very important. Think of what appeals to people who would be interested in your site. LIKE if your site’s about music, giving away copies of War and Peace just won’t cut it because such a contest wouldn’t target the specific people that you want to see your site.

When you’re considering the prizes that you should give away, consider what type of prize would draw the kind of person that would be interested in your site. If the purpose of the contest is to draw visitors to your site, the wrong prizes won’t help you at all.

Devising the type of contest to have is the next step. What is it people need to do to get the prize? One thing that many Web site owners do is require that users register for a newsletter, and then the winner is drawn from those who signed up for the newsletter. Bloggers often run contests where visitors are required to leave a comment on the blog.

After you create your contest, all you have to do is get the word out. Announce the contest on your Web site, blog, and any mailing lists that you have. Tell your friends and ask them to tell their friends. If the contest’s good, word gets around quickly.

You’ll see a spike in the amount of traffic that you have to your site during the contest period, but if you conduct it right, an overall increase will remain after the contest is over. Take the time to design your contest to meet the specific goal of creating traffic (especially return traffic) to your site, and you’ll see the benefits of this strategy the first time you try it.

#9 Social Media Marketing

Social marketing is a relatively new concept that’s based on a phenomenon that’s grown despite the fact that no marketing experts saw it coming, and it’s all based on social networks, such as those brought into being by MySpace and Facebook.

The idea with social networks is that you have an online community where you can connect and share with people who have the same interests that you do. For some, that might be an interest in specific people or hobbies. For others, the interest could surround employment or education. What’s important is that a social network lets you create a circle of like-minded friends and acquaintances — also called a community. For example, with MySpace, the concept is to build a homepage where you and your friends can connect. You can also connect with others who are potential friends because they can view your MySpace page and learn about you and your interests.

If you’re marketing with social networking, create your network, and as you have something to market, share it with that group of friends in your community. They then share it with their friends, and before you know it, a network that’s far beyond the group you could reach on your own knows what you’re doing.

Here’s the catch with social media marketing though: If you develop a social network specifically to sell something to the people in that network, you’ll fall right on your face. Really. Social networks are created by people who have something to share with other people who think like them. If you barge into the network with a sales pitch and nothing more, you’ll be completely ostracized.

To be truly effective, you have to actually participate in the communities that you join. That means interacting with people and offering up something that others can use most of the time without expecting anything in return.

If you really want to see how social media marketing works, check out some of the organizations that have successful sites on MySpace or Facebook — Christian bands like Three Days Grace, for example. To get to the point where a social media marketing strategy is successful requires a lot of effort and attention, but the results can be very much worth the time you put into developing your place on the network.

#10 Offline Marketing Strategies

Offline marketing strategies are probably the last type of marketing you’d expect me to address when it comes to Web sites, but sometimes the offline strategies can really work — it does depend on how you go about it, though.

Offline marketing strategies can be anything from press releases to T-shirts to direct mailings. Think about all the commercials that you see during the Super Bowl. How many of those commercials had Web site addresses attached to them? Did you know that those companies paid millions of dollars to have those commercials shown?

You may not be in a position to pay millions of dollars to have your Web address plastered all over the television, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid offline advertising methods. Some of the things that you can do on a very small budget include putting magnetic signs on the side of your car, wearing T-shirts with your Web address on them, doing radio interviews, sending out press releases, sponsoring a little-league sports team, and the list goes on nearly forever.

The trick with making offline advertising work is to make sure that you’re not investing too much into it, and that it appears in front of the widest audience possible. I wouldn’t suggest that you spend thousands of dollars on offline advertisements, but spending a few hundred here and there could increase your traffic in small, but valuable increments.

Ultimately, the best way to draw more traffic to your Web site isn’t a single way but is more a combination of all the ways listed here. You have to work to find the right balance of what works, but with enough time and effort, you can get the word out there and draw in visitors.

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