One of the questions I'm asked most often when referring to running an online business "out in the real world" is, "How will you get people to notice your website?" I get it, the internet is huge. Creating your own website doesn't sound like a great plan to promote your business.
But the website is just the hub. The real magic happens in the marketing.
How do you drive people to your website so you can start to make money? How can you get noticed in a sea of other websites in your niche? How can you pop up in a Google search?
Welcome to the world of traffic driving.
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate/referral links, meaning that I receive compensation/account credits if you sign-up or purchase through certain links on this page (at no additional cost to you!). I preach transparency around here, so know that affiliate programs in no way affect my opinions of these products.
The Traffic Secret Sauce
A lot of people assume that you get people to your website by doing any of the following:
A) Spamming people with the link on Facebook and through emails.
B) Paying for advertisements somehow.
C) Crossing your fingers.
Yeah, you could do any of these. But there are much better ways.
- Content marketing: Your new best friend.
I believe the most effective way to drive traffic to your site, and develop a brand that people love, is through the power of content marketing.
According to the Content Marketing Institute,
"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
This approach is all about delivering amazing value to your audience to really develop your entire brand. It influences your audience, your customers, your message, your reputation, your readers' trust, and just about everything else you can think of.
Some people jump ahead. They jump straight into paid advertisements for their website, or promoting it on social media, or sending out emails at random (which will usually just get you flagged as spam). It's difficult to get very far with this strategy.
Instead, start with valuable content as your baseline.
Rather than posting on Facebook, "Come buy my ebook!" you could be posting a link to your article, "10 reasons why ____ will transform your life." If that topic ties into your ebook topic, you're immediately building more interest, trust, and authority around what you wrote in your ebook. And trust leads to sales!
And you can have paid advertisements for your free downloads that will inspire people to want to take action with your paid products.
Or you can build an email list of people who want you in their inboxes. Spend time delivering valuable content to them for free, nurture that trust relationship, and then stand back and watch as they become excited to spend money on your products and services!
Content comes in many forms: blog posts, emails, PDF downloads, ebooks, videos, courses, podcasts, webinars, etc. The idea is that you're creating something of value designed to attract your ideal audience and build trust with your brand.
So, great, I have to create some content. But how does that drive people to my website?
Glad you asked! When you're creating content, we can move on to the rest of the story . . .
This is how most of us find new stuff on the internet, right? We have a question, we search for it on Google (does anyone actually use a different search engine? If so...why?), we get our answer.
But, did you know that there is an entire science and industry behind getting those websites to show up in those search results?
Because how often do we click over to Page 2 on Google's search results? If we don't get it on Page 1, we tend to assume the answer doesn't exist for those search terms.
How on earth do you get to be in the top 10?
SEO is a complicated field, but it's the best way to generate long-term (as in, it takes a long time to see results), organic traffic, for free!
- What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is, in super simple terms, the process used to rank a particular website on search engines. Because, like I said, there's a heck of a lot of technical science and algorithms that go into getting certain websites on the front page.
That's why there are SEO specialists (even firms) out there whose only job is to get their clients' websites on page 1 for certain search terms.
- How does Google find me?
So, that's great. We know there's a lot that goes into SEO. So how can I cater to that without hiring someone to do it for me?
Let's talk about some tech stuff real quick.
Google indexes information from all over the web so that they can retrieve the information you ask for when you type silly questions into their search bar. Which means, if you want your website to start to come up in these results, Google will need to index the pages on your website. Otherwise, Google can't place your website in their results!
Think of this as Google writing the pages of your website (and what they contain) on index cards and filing them away for future reference. If someone asks them a question later, they can go to that part of their files and pull out the card with your content on it! But if it's not in their files in the first place, they obviously can't retrieve it to give to the person asking the question!
How do you get in their filing cabinet?
Google discovers new websites like yours by crawling the web for new content. This is exactly what it sounds like. Google sends out a virtual "crawler" to scour the internet looking for new and/or updated websites for indexing. It's like checking news feeds for fresh stories or the stock market for major changes in company performance. They go out and look for new stuff to add to their collection of data, which is then offered up in search results!
There are a lot of factors that tell Google how often they're going to crawl your website to collect data, and how they're going to index your data. You want them to be able to understand your website and what it's about so they index accurately. That way, they'll rank your website higher for certain search results that you're the best fit for! So the more information, the better.
- Getting Google's attention.
Writing this post, I realized just how much there was that goes into SEO basics (so much for basic, right?). I fully intended to incorporate it all into this post, but it legitimately added an extra 2,000+ words to this already-3600-word post.
So, if you're looking to establish a solid foundation for your blog's SEO, drop your email below and I'll send you the guide! I detailed a bunch of settings you should put in place from day one to save you hours later, plus practices to incorporate into your blog posts way before you hit publish for the first time.
And I went ahead and threw in some SEO tips for Pinterest at the end!
Let's move on from search engines, shall we?
PSYCH. Pinterest is a search engine! How 'bout that?
Some of you may have heard that already, but I remember when I first heard it. It blew my mind. If that's you, welcome to the club! It's awesome.
There's a lot that can go into setting up your fully optimized Pinterest profile and strategy, and it'll take quite a few words to lay it all out. So you can get started with the content on Simple Pin Media, which is a site I love to get my Pinterest tips from!
- Here's the gist of how Pinterest can work for your website.
Your first step is going to be to create a Pinterest Business Account so that you can access analytics and other cool features. Then you'll build your profile, plus a couple other setups like Rich Pins, which essentially pull data, like the post title, from your website that helps your pins look a bit more professional.
After you get the logistics out of the way, you'll need to cater your boards and pins to your audience!
While your personal Pinterest may have boards dedicated to your fitness goals, outfit inspiration, travel destinations, and your dream wedding, that won't fly for your blog. Instead, you'll want all of your boards to be related to what your blog is about.
From there, it's all about sharing pins related to that content! You'll grow a following, and establish your profile within your niche. Then, you'll also add pins that you create that link to your own posts!
Another great option to consider is group boards. This is where you'll join a group board related to your niche with more than one contributor. Not only that, but there are usually wayyyyy more followers than you'll have on your own boards! As in, thousands. That's a lot more people than would normally see your pins while you're starting out!
- A few more pro-tips for getting started with Pinterest:
- Joining group boards is a slow, tedious process. You'll search for group boards on Pinterest (or use tools like PinGroupie!), follow the instructions in the board's description, and then waaaaaaaaaaaait to hear back. For many applications, you'll never hear back. Honestly, you're looking at maybe about a 1-in-5 response rate. I don't know why, but that's the way it is. Use a spreadsheet to track your applications, and just keep trucking through it.
- Group boards are a great strategy, but don't believe the lie that they're the only strategy. The Pinterest algorithm has changed since group boards first launched, and many experts feel they're not as effective as many other bloggers would lead you to believe. Focus on finding quality group boards that are niche-specific. And don't be afraid to leave them later if they don't seem to be helping your stats!
- Create on-brand board covers for each of your own boards to help your profile look more professional! You can create specially designed covers like I have here, or simply use on-brand/themed photos and pins! This isn't the most important thing you can do, but it's definitely a satisfying project to complete.
- Choose a stellar profile picture of yourself. Low-lit, fuzzy photos that aren't of your face will not draw clicks. Find a bright, clear photo that does your beautiful face justice!
- Create a board just for your blog posts. Every pin that comes from your website should have a place on this board. It makes it easier for others to find, and it makes it easier for you to share from to promote your own blog! I don't recommend naming it a "Best of" board, since it shouldn't just contain your best. It should have everything from your domain!
- Invest in a Pinterest scheduler like Tailwind or BoardBooster. These will allow you to schedule pins out ahead of time in batches, which will save you hours of effort in the future. Both of these tools have tons of other features that you can use to promote your account, so definitely look into them! (I jump back and forth between both, but Tailwind may be the most beginner-friendly.)
I'm going to be completely honest; I find social media marketing tedious and frustrating. I'm not afraid to say it, because I know I'm not the only one! Buuuut social media is the best platform for connecting with your readers and finding new ones, so I suppose it's a necessary evil.
When it comes to establishing a social media presence for your blog, your main three to look at are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
There are three ways that Facebook can work for your blog's traffic: Running a FB page, joining FB groups, and running ads.
You can create a public Facebook page for your blog where you promote your own content, share other content, and engage with your readers. Whereas it used to be easier for people to stumble onto your page and discover your content, Facebook is making some changes to restructure user's feeds which will make it a lot harder for your content to appear in front of new eyes. Regardless, a Facebook page can still be a solid way to give your readers a place to get updates and start a conversation with you! Learn how to set up your first Facebook business page here.
One of the most popular ways for driving traffic from Facebook when you're just starting out is by joining blog-related Facebook groups. These can be general blogging groups, or they can specific to your niche. Most of these groups are private, but you can usually apply with a click of a button. Once you're accepted, you can use these groups to meet other bloggers and, if they allow it, promote your own blog.
If your blog isn't new, however, I don't really recommended spending time promoting in Facebook groups. It's great for getting your first page views and engagement, but it's not a long-term promotion solution - especially if your goal is automation and efficiency!
You can also create your own Facebook group to build a community among your audience, but that will typically be more focused on cultivating your current audience, not generating new traffic. (With the exception of developing loyal readers who promote your brand through word-of-mouth!)
And finally, you can always try your hand at running Facebook ads. Personally, I'm operating on a strict budget for my blog, so it's not a part of my strategy to pay for traffic yet. I would only pay for ads if those ads are going to funnel leads towards an income-generating item for me, like a product or affiliate promo. However, if you have a small chunk of change sitting around and you're good to play the long-term game, you can seriously build your email list with some strategic, carefully-targeted Facebook ads (and seriously, it doesn't have to cost much at all.)
It's worth noting that you can run promotion campaigns on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, too! If that's the route you want to take, do your research and make it happen!
Twitter is a platform that can either work for you super well, or completely waste your time.
From my experience over several months, your best Twitter results are going to be through organic activity. As in, you're posting actual updates, interacting with your followers, and showing up every day.
While it can be helpful to use an automation tool like Recurpost to set-up libraries of Tweets that will promote your website, products, and blog posts, you won't get results if that's all that pops up on your feed (guilty).
If you already enjoy using Twitter, I do recommend it. It's arguably one of the best ways to have conversations with your readers that don't end up turning into giant paragraphs and huge time commitments. Use Twitter if you're going to use Twitter. But if you're only going to promo your content, you're probably just going to waste your time.
If you do use it, here are a couple tips I've picked up:
- Share more of other people's content than your own.
- If you do share someone else's content, try and incorporate their Twitter handle so they can see that you shared their stuff!
- Tweets with photos are more likely to get noticed!
- Research your hashtags, and use them strategically!
- Do not, I repeat, do not, use the follow-unfollow strategy. It's rude, and people notice. Follow someone because you want to follow them, and don't expect a follow-back. It's not a numbers game! It's about genuine connection!
Time for another truth session! I don't know how to use Instagram. I started one for TLS, then realized I was juggling too many things and abandoned it until I could get control of my processes again. And no, I never had a personal Instagram either! Gasp, what kind of millennial am I?
I do, however, know a few things that I've picked up from around the internet.
For one, Instagram is the best social media platform for creatives that need visuals - think fashion, beauty, crafting, organization, art, etc. However, any brand can utilize visual elements to their advantage, so Instagram can work for anyone's business!
The key to success is going to be in your photos. You have to really strategize the photos you share! They need to have a theme. Are they cool tones? Lots of white? Are they filled with details and visual elements, or are they minimalist? Rustic or modern? What kinds of filters do you use? Do you add text overlays? These are the kinds of visual branding elements you should consider when developing your Instagram style.
From there, it's about creating engaging, interesting captions that make people want to click and read more when they see your photo pop up. And hashtags! Twitter users should limit their hashtags to one or two, but Instagram users should use as many as possible!
And again, the follow-unfollow strategy is mega un-cool.
That about sums up my knowledge of Instagram, so for more information, you can start by heading on over to this post from the Instagram-queen Jenna Kutcher. From there, you'll likely fall into a rabbit-hole of content that might change your life because she's seriously one of the best.
Update: I've since started using Instagram! It's taken a boost of courage but I'm actually having a lot of fun with it. You can follow me here!
Other Traffic Sources
Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the main starting points for promoting your blog. But they're certainly not the only options!
First off, there are tons of other social media channels out there. Tumblr, Reddit, and even LinkedIn are pretty popular options. And many people argue that Google will favor websites that use Google Plus.
A lot of people also cultivate traffic from Quora, which is the nicer version of Yahoo Answers. They look for unanswered questions in their niche, give very thorough answers to the questions, then add an unobtrusive link to their blog post on the topic as an offer for further reading. This is one takes a bit of time investment up front, but I've seen people get incredible results from this.
Perhaps the best option, though the most underutilized strategy, is guest posting. I don't have first-hand experience with this yet, so I'm not dishing out much advice at this point. But here's...
- What I know about guest posting.
- Spend a ton of time researching the right blogs to guest post on. You want to find blogs that share your audience and your values. It's a waste of time to guest post on a blog that wouldn't reach your ideal reader.
- Take the time to connect with the blogger first. Don't just "cold-pitch" to a blogger who has no idea who you are. Follow them on social media, subscribe to their email list, respond to their newsletters, comment on their posts. Guest posting is another long-term solution, so there's no rush to get your post on someone's website. Take the time to build a genuine relationship with the bloggers that you care about.
- When you do pitch your guest post offer, be thorough. Share a few ideas you had for a potential topic and explain why it would be beneficial for them and their audience (proof is always helpful here!).
- If the blogger allows, you can create a special opt-in freebie for that post. Bonus points for having a special landing page on your website that personalizes a greeting for people that would click over from that site! And be sure to have a solid author bio to incorporate into the end of your post!
Guest posting is one of the absolute best ways to increase your brand presence, build your email list, and establish your authority, all in one go! You can learn more about guest posting over here on guest-posting-pro Sana Choudary's blog!
Don't forget to have a blog worth promoting!
Phew! We covered a lot in this post, and I really hope it helped open your eyes to the many ways you can get eyeballs onto your site. Sometimes, you've got to get creative. Other times, you've got to be patient and continue laying the brickwork, little by little.
But don't overwhelm yourself trying to implement all of these strategies at once. Start with one, maybe two, and then branch out. I started with Pinterest and Facebook groups. Now that I'm ready to move past Facebook groups, I'm preparing for a new promo strategy (probably guest posting!). Take it slow! Get grounded in one platform, then conquer the next.
And don't forget: You've got to have a blog worth promoting. I've slowed down on promotion because I'm focusing on content creation. There's no point in driving a bunch of people to an empty website! So be sure to have content on your site, and a way for capturing those email addresses!
Ready to lay your foundation?
Be sure to snag The Beginner's Guide to Getting Seen so you can start laying your SEO foundation from day one. Seriously, every day you wait is an incredible amount of wasted time for your blog's future. It doesn't take much to put the pieces in place, so drop your email below to get started!
I'd love to know, what do you think your best platform is for promoting your blog? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time!
- Katie Scott