Google isn’t the only way to drive traffic to your website.
There are many alternative methods to grow your audience organically — many of which rely largely on honing in on enthused communities such as social networks, forums and blogs that specifically target your niche. If you can create the right kind of activity on these sites, you can build a wave of momentum—without thinking about search at all.
- Blog commenting
Commenting on other industry blogs allows you to introduce your website to the larger community, and develop your online identity with strategic debate. Target the sites you want to comment on carefully, and make sure that you invest the energy in becoming a real member of the community—either by specifically seeking to solve a problem for another commenter, or by regularly engaging on the site until you are a known and trusted presence.
You are placing your opinions on the frontline for all to see, which is essential to becoming a thought leader. Use your real name, and always remember that you are representing your brand through these comments.
One of the best ways to make sure your site gets visibility in a non-spammy way is to share a blog post you’ve written that directly addresses a question or concern another poster is posing; “spray-fire” links or out-of-the-blue mentions of your site aren’t natural, and can even get you banned from certain communities.
- Forum commenting
Similarly to commenting on blogs, forum engagement relies on you engaging your potential user base in a discussion or debate and adding legitimate value to that conversation. The difference in forum posting is that it can be much easier to engage is substantive debates and conversations than in comment sections, so you have a chance to explain your point of view and deliver it in a more meaningful way. Forums tend to be enthusiastic communities, providing an opportunity to “meet” your audience—and learn from them. Too many brands join communities just to shout about their own goals and ideas, but the most successful participants will be taking feedback and ideas on-board as well. Forum conversations are perhaps more difficult to get used to than blog commenting, as intense debates can go on for days, so you need to stick around to follow up on your points.
Online forums tend to be somewhat wary of newcomers, particularly if you’re immediately seen to promote a product. The best thing you can do is engage in existing threads, and get a feel for the community before jumping in and starting your own conversation.
- Content aggregators
You can submit your content to aggregators such as inbound.org, alltop.com and Hacker News. Keep in mind that the content you enter onto these platforms needs to be high quality in order to gain traction in such a competitive side-by-side comparison format. As always, focus on pieces that aim to solve a problem for your readers; content that delivers utility will always do better than content that is created for the sake of controversy or keywords.
There are many aggregator sites, across all sectors. Invest the effort is finding one that fits your audience needs the best.
Establishing yourself on Google+ takes time. A complete profile is key, as is targeting thought leaders in your field and tagging them, essentially using the platform as a high-profile way to associate yourself with higher-level brands.
Engagement matters to ensure that you’re not seen as a pest. Make sure you follow the golden rule of social media and give as generously as you want to receive, sharing and commenting on other’s posts and upvoting content that is not only quality, but also relevant to your own target audience.
- Guest blogging
Guest blogging is a way putting your brand in front of a new audience and establishing yourself as a source of expertise in your field. Just remember to include a call to action in your post, reply to any comments, and engage the blog’s readership as much as possible while you’re there.
- Q&A sites
Sites like Yahoo Answers or Quora receive millions of visitors each month, and reach people who are searching for niche, specific answers to their queries. You can demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in a search-friendly way by offering not just answers, but also additional resources and links to supporting information.
Reddit is so much more than a forum. It’s a vibrant community made up of hundreds of niche groups. Upvotes from the commuity can help boost traffic immensely in a very short space of time. The Reddit community is famously very engaged, so if you have a controversial aspect of your site or unique content that needs to be seen by a specific group, Reddit is a great place to start.
- Social networking
Repurpose content and share it across multiple platforms where appropriate, and prioritise quality and creative imagery—image-driven content tends to do far better than text-only, and there are plenty of ways to maximise this effect. Plus, social media allows you to engage more personally with your followers and give a voice to your brand. Your social media presence isn’t just about your latest project, it’s about what you believe in and are interested in.
Email marketing may be considered old school by some, but it’s still a fundamental way to remind your established base that you are publishing current content, running a promotion, or sharing industry news. The best emails are always carefully conceived, from considering subject line character counts to keeping the more important information above the fold. Email is also invaluable for its ability to track users’ entry points to your site, providing granular CRO data.
Sometimes, the simplest ideas can be the best. Ralph Jones of Hexjam signed all his emails off with signed off all his PR emails with “I love you” month. It didn’t always quite work out, but at the end of the day, the people who got his humour were on-board with the joke, and he ended up building stronger relationships with his contacts. You should always be thinking out of the box as part of your email marketing strategy—just think of the thousands of emails that land in your inbox every year, and consider how many you opened and the ones you didn’t. It’s proven that emails from a person with a name, with an intriguing subject line and some degree of personalisation, always do better than generic emails.
Although Google is the dominant controller of online traffic, as this list proves, there are several social- and community- based engagement methods to bypass its long grasp. However, to get the most impact from these traffic-building platforms, it would be best to reflect on your site and its niche attributes and the resulting sites and social communities that would benefit from it the most. If you can be specific, make quality editorial and visual content and also look around at the popular trends in your sector, you can definitely isolate what your site has that is different, what it has to offer and to who and what it has to do to stand out of the crowd.