“If search engines were never invented or they ceased to exist tomorrow, how would you build traffic to your website in a search less world?”
That’s the first question each of us search-addicted webmasters should ask ourselves every morning. While search is really hard to beat in terms of cost-of-traffic and its targeting, don’t leave these other options out of your Web Promotion Playbook. Learn how to thrive on the Internet without having to worry about the unpredictable algorithm changes of search engine algorithms and you’ve created a truly defensible audience.
In no particular order, each of these methods of engaging the Internet will deliver to you targeted, monetizable web traffic:
1. Blogging. There are a hundred good reasons as to why you should be blogging, but in terms of building a web audience, the two best reasons are A) It gives you near immediate time-to-market with your message and B) It’s a great way to put a face behind your message. Popular blog services like Technorati can deliver great traffic. If we take our search engine blinders off, blog search engines are now reaching high enough adoption rates to send over great traffic, too. Ok, search blinders back on. Don’t forget to be an active and valuable commenter on the blogs of other key influencers in your business.
2. Podcasting. I don’t have any specific stats on podcasting, but just ask yourself, “Do I or anybody I know listen to podcasts?” I’m betting the answer is, “Yes!”, and the number is higher than it was a few years ago. Like blogging, Podcasting is a great way to control your message and bring it to market quickly.
3. Link buying. Search engines turn up their noses at link buying, but I have been buying links long before they were used to juice link popularity scoring. A good link can deliver tons of targeted traffic. Some Wikipedia links deliver way more benefit from their traffic than they ever did from their link authority. See: Text Link Ads.
4. TV Buys. It turns out TV time really isn’t that expensive in local markets. Check out Spotrunner. You can buy great air time for a whole lot less than you probably expected.
5. Web Directories. This is how the Internet used to be organized and the genesis of Yahoo. While most fly-by-night directories won’t ever send you enough traffic to merit the fee, take a look at Aviva Directory’s List of the Strongest Directories. Work your way down this list and you’ll see targeted traffic.
6. Ad Networks. One of the things I always try to do is buy ad inventory on any pages that rank above me. Many of the most trafficked sites on the Internet sell ad space or let ad network services like AdBrite or IndustryBrains resell the space. There is gold in some of them hills!
7. Online Forums. Like web directories, online forums can trace their history back to the earliest days of Internet traffic. But like blogging, it’s a great way to personalize your interaction with your audience while building traffic.
8. Social Media. Aside from search engines, this is the motherload of traffic. Whether you’re building a large Myspace and Facebook presence, establishing yourself as a thoughtleader on linked in, or seeing your content promoted on Digg, Netscape, and Reddit…this is probably the largest yield of any audience building effort
9. Email List Rentals. This is a huge driver of traffic in the B2B and direct marketing worlds. If you can get the right cross section of traffic in a list, it’s very profitable. Just make sure the provider of the list is in compliance with all the laws regarding this activity.
10. Webinars/Video. Webinars just might be the hottest audience building tool in the B2B world. Like podcasting, you can really go the extra mile in personalizing the message and interaction with your audience. Video communities like YouTube are a great source of traffic. What the audience lacks in buying intent, it makes up for in the ability to take your content viral. See: LonelyGirl15.
11. Online Press Releases. Maybe the oldest and most resilient of the traditional media promotional tools, the online version is also effective. You’d be surprised how many news outlets rely on newswires. Take advantage of that through online press release agencies like PRWeb.com.
12. PR Firm. A PR firm won’t pull a rabbit out of a hat, but the good ones are amazingly good at creating inertia behind your product or service. Their Rolodexes will make it easier to do everything else on this list.
13. Event Media Sponsorships. If you are a news blogger…or your site can pass as a news site…this is an amazing source of traffic and branding that most online publishers have overlooked. Just about every major conference, seminar series, or symposium is looking for media sponsorships. You’ll get a valuable link on the event website plus you can market to eventgoers with other materials in the registration bags, booths at the show, and email blasts. The results of doing this in the B2B world are nothing short of amazing.
14. Sponsored Reviews. There are a million bloggers out there who are looking for topics to write about and get paid. The concept of the sponsored review was designed by firms like ReviewMe and PayPerPost to solve this problem. Many of the Technorati Top 100 blogs can send you thousands of visitors.
15. Syndicate Your Content. There are thousands of other businesses out there who are unable or unwilling to create their own content. For example, many Fortune 500’s display third-party content to aid their audience in buying decisions. There are also a ton of article sites with active audiences and/or good traffic. Make sure you require a link back to your original source, though. You know…to establish canonicalization for those search engines we are trying to ignore.
16. Streaking. I may only be halfway joking here because I don’t think I knew about Golden Palace before a dozen of their best Brits went Frank the Tank on various sporting events I had the misfortune of watching. If there’s any chance I can convince just one web marketing team to adopt this strategy, this is me hoping that ends up being the folks who handle Jessica Alba’s online promotion. That is one server crashing I can guarantee.
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