Note from the editor: These next few days, we will be re-publishing note-worthy content from the Wisdump archive. This particular article was originally posted by Paul Scrivens on August 8th, 2006.
Developing traffic is a fine art on the web. Sometimes we get lost in the fact that just because it is easy to build a website it does not mean that it will be easy for people to find it. When it comes to personal sites, maybe it is not your goal to have a large amount of traffic come through your site, but for almost every other site in existence, the site will need traffic to survive. The question then becomes how does one go about developing traffic for their website?
The best way (and one of the hardest) is to get linked to by other sites. Once you are linked by someone else and that site has more than 2 visitors you will more than likely receive a small boost in traffic. However, keeping that traffic is another story altogether. Of course no one will link to you if it is not worth their time. They are trying to enrich the content of their site so if a link to your site does nothing for them, well then don’t expect a link.
Of course for someone to link to you they have to know that your site exists. So what are you to do about this situation?
Comments, Linking, Forums, and Email
These are not guaranteed ways, but they do usually provide some success. The first one involves simply commenting on other people’s sites or in forums where signatures are allowed. The key here though is to post an insightful comment where people will be interested to find out more about you. “Awesome idea!” is the kind of comment that people will quickly bypass. Don’t get me wrong, I love these kinds of comments, but the chances of someone clicking on your name drops. I think I click on links within comments more than I do links within an entry.
In forums the more popular people in the community have sites that become well-known because they are associated with the people and therefore gain respect.
The second method involves including links to other sites, be it within an entry or a blogroll. I can only speak from my own experience, but I often check my referrer logs and if I notice a new link pointing to my site I will always check it out. It’s always fun to find that diamond in the rough on the web. Technorati and trackbacks/pingbacks have made life a bit easier in finding the sites that link to you. People love compliments.
If you think you really have a great article I wouldn’t hesitate to email other sites in your genre to let them know about it. This can only happen every so often as most people will grow tired of reading about your next great thing. However, great content deserves great coverage, but don’t fall into the trap thinking that all of your content is great enough to spam people.
Many sites make deals where they will post each others links on their sites. This can be either good or useless. If the site linking to you gets absolutely zero traffic then a link might be useless and only benefitting that individual. Also if their link to you is in a place where no one will find it then it again becomes useless. When doing a link exchange do not expect the person to always be so helpful for you. Work a deal where both parties will benefit.
According to some people Google blacklists “link farms” whose sole purpose is to just provide links to other site without offering anything useful on their site. You may encounter emails from individuals looking to exchange links only to find they will put you on a page that already contains hundreds of links. I haven’t encountered this type of situation in a very long time, but still get the occassional email for 9rules to join a link exchange.
A technique that I have yet to try and more than likely never will for any site I create is using traffic generators. These types of sites guarantee that they will send you X amount of people for Y amount of dollars. The problem with these are that most of the time the traffic is generated through pop-unders and if you are like me you close those windows quicker than they appear.
Depending on the site and the type of ad you use advertising is still an effective means to developing traffic.
Do you use email? If so, why not include your url at the bottom. It won’t bring you thousands of visitors, but all you need is one person to start spreading the news.
Content Still Wins
Popular sites are popular due to their great content. It’s a simple formula that always works. However, you have to get people to your site to see the great content and you should have some success if you follow the methods outlined above. The line seems to be divided on whether submitting your own content to Digg and Reddit is “ethical” or not, but again I feel if the content is warranted then by all means don’t hesitate in promoting it. These sites will provide a great boost in traffic, but won’t keep it so what you present to your incoming readers is what determines whether they will come back or not.
If you know the basics of SEO for your site you should be fine in pushing that to the back of your mind. Once you get caught up in trying to play the SEO game you lose focus on what will make your site great and that is the content that is on their. SEO will take care of itself and relying on organic search engine is a fool’s game to play. Just keep producing the content and the traffic will flow if you follow the advice above.
Once you have the traffic you can begin to work on developing a community within your site.