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Generate MEANINGFUL Traffic to Your Site

For those of you who frequent the Internet Marketing forums as I do, one of the most common questions you see is “how do I get traffic to my site”. Since marketing is all about exposure, that becomes the key question for just about anyone with a product to sell. But not all traffic is created equally. Traffic volume and traffic quality are not the same.

In the sections that follow, I’ll discuss various techniques that can be employed for traffic generation. I’ll also discuss the pros and cons of each.

Many people are under the impression that Pay-per-Click (PPC) originated with Google AdWords. In fact, PPC has been around since 1997-1998. However, the PPC concept essentially floundered until the introduction of AdWords. While a number of companies offered PPC programs, none of them had the sheer muscle (i.e., traffic) that Google brought to the table to make it work effectively. Similar models are now used by Yahoo and a number of other search engines as well.

PPC allows you to place ads in the “sponsored links” section of the search engine results. The order of placement is determined by how much you “bid” on each keyword you select. The higher your bid, the higher your placement in the sponsored links area.

As an example, let’s say you bid .25 per click for the keyword “candles”. If three other businesses bid higher than that, your ad listing would be placed 4th in the order. You only pay the .25 if someone actually clicks on your link to go to your web site.

But PPC is not a panacea or magic bullet. You will have to determine if PPC works for your product. In highly competitive businesses such as web hosting you have to make relatively high per-click keyword bids (often .00 or more) just to be listed in the 1st or 2nd page of the results. For niche type businesses the bid rate is typically less. It just depends on the type of business and the level of competition. But for a high-competition business (e.g., web hosting), a .25 bid is next to useless.

Another consideration is your profit margin for the product you sell vs. the cost per click. Let’s assume your margin is per item sold. If your bid is .25 and you get a sale, on average, every 10th click, then you are paying .50 for each .00 profit you make (net profit .50). On the other hand, if you have to bid .00 per keyword click you would actually lose .00 per sale (assuming again you receive a sale every 10th click).

Google and Yahoo use a similar formula. Other search engines use a different approach. EasySeek, for instance, currently charges per keyword for a three-month period. Rather than bidding on each keyword click, EasySeek rotates all the ads on their sponsored listings in a random fashion. While this is potentially a less expensive approach than Google or Yahoo, you also have to keep in mind that EasySeek does not receive the same level of usage.

Since PPC is keyword based, your ads are targeted. That is, your ad will only show up if someone enters your keyword(s) as part of their search criteria. Targeted traffic is good.

The only way to know if PPC will work for you is to try it. But monitor it carefully and make sure you analyze the results.

Joining a “safelist” (aka maillist) allows you to send your ads to a large number of people via email. Some safelist providers allow you to send email just for registering, while others require a fee. In most cases, free lists require you to read the emails from other people in order to obtain “credits” for sending out your own messages. Typically, your coverage is greater with the fee-based list.

There are two important considerations when using safelists. First, some allow your ads to be targeted to specific product categories and some do not. Targeted ads are always much more effective.

Second, make sure that the safelist utilizes a double opt-in process for its email recipients. Double opt-in ensures that the people on the list have in fact agreed to receive email via the list. Without this protection, you run the risk of someone filing a spam (unsolicited email) complaint.

If you do subscribe to a safelist, you then become part of that list. That means you should expect a large amount of email from the list. In most cases it’s a good idea to set up a separate email box to receive this email rather than have it going to your primary email account.

It’s also important to make sure any list you join actually goes to “live” people. You have mostly likely seen ads for list providers who promise that your email will go to millions of addresses. That doesn’t do you much good if 90% or more of these are “dead” addresses (no longer used or verified). In such a case, those supposed million emails being sent out are just going into a big black hole.

As with PPC advertising, you will have to determine if a safelist will work for the product or service you are selling.

Traffic exchanges put your web site in “rotation” with those of the other members of the TE. When people “surf” the TE your site will randomly be displayed. Traffic Exchanges will certainly generate a lot of “hits” to your site, but these are not targeted hits by any means.

Traffic exchanges tend to be populated primarily by Internet marketers marketing to other Internet marketers. That may actually be to your advantage. As a TE user myself, I have learned to simply ignore the never-ending display of IM hype sites as they go through their rotation. Basically, the only reason most people surf is to get credits for their own site. Most people don’t use a TE to find a product they are interested in.

Assuming your product is not Internet Marketing related, the very appearance of a web site that promotes something other than the latest IM craze might just cause the surfer to take a closer look. If nothing else, it’s a way for them to break the sheer boredom of surfing.

Just as is the case with many other potential advertising venues, the best way to determine if TEs can work for you is to try one. If nothing else, using a TE will significantly increase your site visit statistics. But that may not translate to sales. If you decide to use TEs, you should also use some soft of tracking software to determine if you are actually getting sales (conversions) from those TEs.

There are forums for virtually every topic and product category in the world. All you have to do is a search for your product and the word “forum” or “discussion group”.

Forums provide you with several benefits. First, most of them are free to join so the price is right. Second, if you join a forum related to your business sector any ads you place are targeted. Keep in mind however, that not all forums allow ads so make sure you read the rules. There are ways around that of course. Simply putting your web site URL in your tagline let’s people know you have products to offer. It sounds a little sneaky, but everyone does it.

The other major benefit of joining one or more forums is that it helps you become known. When people have questions, take the opportunity to offer advice; let them know you believe in customer support and that you are willing to take the time to help.

I utilized forums heavily many years ago when I ran my own computer products company. As people in the forums came to know me they would become interested in the products I sold. When people had questions or a problem with a particular computer-related issue, I would help them. Many of those I helped eventually became customers.

Forums won’t result in the thousands of page hits you get by using traffic exchanges, but when someone clicks your link in a forum to visit your site there is a high probability they are interested in your product or service.

The UseNet Newsgroups are conceptually similar to forums. They offer people a vehicle to discuss their particular interests with others. Find the newsgroups relevant to your product or service and start posting.

Article submission is becoming very popular on the Web. Well-written articles can be highly effective in driving traffic to your site. The more traffic you receive, the greater your opportunity for sales conversions. Better yet, it’s free.

As is the case with posting in Forums, publishing articles with links back to your site provides a form of targeted traffic. Since people are making the conscious decision to visit your site (based on your article), there is a good chance they are interested in finding out more about your product or service. Article submission is an option to consider.

Having your own blog on the web serves a similar function as publishing articles. You can use the blog to provide useful information to potential customers, but it shouldn’t be a sales site – you have your primary site for that.

Try to make your blog postings both informative and entertaining. Give people a reason to come back. Use the “ping” services to get your blog listed in the directories.

Having other sites link to your site can be a highly effective means of free advertising. The best-case scenario is when the sites that link to yours have some relation to your product or service. As I’ve pointed out previously, targeted traffic is what you would like to have.

There has been much discussion lately as to the utility of backlinks helping your Search Engine placement. In most cases they probably won’t. But if targeted traffic is what you want, doing a little work to obtain backlinks may be worthwhile.

I used backlinks extensively when I designed a web site for a friend who owns a small marina in Virginia. It can be tedious work, but it is well worth it, especially if your business is primarily local as was the case with my friend.

We made mutual agreements with many of the other businesses and organizations in the area. These included real estate companies, restaurants, fishing clubs, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Authority, and so on.

Over a 3-month period, we were able to accumulate more than 100 backlinks from local businesses. Our “targeting” strategy was based on the lake itself. The concept was simple: anyone searching the web for information about the lake (e.g., fishing reports, boating, house rentals) would, in many cases, also want to know about the marina. It didn’t matter what web site they started on as a result of their search: real estate, restaurant, State Park, or others. Because of all the backlinks, people would eventually wind up on the marina web site. We simply provided a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow.

The concept worked extremely well. Visitors to the marina increased, as did motel bookings by approximately 33%. Many of the marina guests told my friend that they learned about the marina and motel as a result of following links from other local web sites. The marina site currently has a Google PR5 rating and receives thousands of visits monthly. It now boasts a link popularity of more than 300 (300+ backlinks). That’s pretty amazing for a small local marina on a medium-sized lake in Virginia.

There are a number of services (link exchanges) on the web that will make finding backlinks to your site much easier than the process we went through. If you use one of these services, make sure you accept only sites relevant to yours. If you are selling candles it really doesn’t help you to have links coming from a trucking company site.

Just as with Forums and Articles, you won’t get the thousands of hits you get with the TEs. But the visits you do receive will come from people who are interested in your site and product.

There are numerous sites on the web that provide businesses with a place to advertise their products and services. Some of these are free while others require a minimal charge.

Classified Ad sites typically divide the items for sale into categories (such as the ads in a newspaper). As a result, your ads will be targeted to the people that have an interest in the products or services you offer.

Don’t overlook using these sites. Remember, most people who are visiting a classified ad site are usually looking to make a purchase!

If your budget allows, print ads in newspapers and other publications are an option for your advertising campaign. They would, or course, be most effective if the coverage area for your business was more local than national or international.

If your budget allows for the placement of ads in national publications that would certainly provide significant exposure for your business. Don’t ignore “offline” advertising opportunities.

Just as with local newspapers, placing ads on the radio would be most appropriate if your business coverage is primarily local. Before placing radio ads however, you need to understand the demographics of radio listeners.

More than 60% of people who listen to the radio do so while they are in their car: driving to or from work, going to the store, et cetera. Considering that most people who are in their car do not have a pencil and piece of paper handy, providing a web site URL during a radio broadcast is essentially pointless.

Unless you have a “bricks and mortar” store location within the broadcast area, radio ads are probably not a cost-effective option in most cases.

Most of us would love to have a budget that allowed for television advertising. But very few of us have those kinds of funds available.

Of course, you may be able to place an ad or two on a local access cable channel. But nobody I know watches those anyway.

Many people I know get caught up in trying to find ways to get the “most” traffic to their site. That viewpoint can lead to futile results if that traffic, no matter how high, fails to result in actual conversions to sales. More traffic does not necessarily translate into quality traffic.

With several of my online business, I have had more conversions by posting in a forum or publishing articles than I have from literally tens of thousands of hits from other “non-targeted” means.

Ask yourself: are you looking for traffic or SALES?

About the Author: Ray has a 30+ career in the Computer Information Technology (IT) field. He has been a Systems Analyst, Database and Network Administrator, Website Manager, IT Architect and Director of IT. He has owned several successful online businesses. He is also the author of several books related to technology and business.

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