If you're like most bloggers, you have a solid set of quality content. And like many bloggers, probably no one is reading it. How can you get targeted website traffic?
15 Free Sources of Targeted Website Traffic
Building blog traffic is a fundamental step to monetization. Without traffic, bloggers quickly lose their motivation. And the lack of targeted traffic will kill even the best online business idea.
In this post, you'll learn about 15 traffic sources and how to use them. I've also researched specific resources for each one – including tools, books, and other blog posts.
Let's get started!
15 Free Traffic Sources:
- SEO: Write for Search
- Content Marketing
- Forum Marketing
- Contest Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Twitter Traffic
- Blog Commenting
- Guest Blogging
- Social Media Share Buttons
- Maximize Social Media
- Blogger Outreach
- Content Aggregators (RSS Feed)
- YouTube Traffic
- Reddit Marketing
- Content Curation
Before we begin, I would like to clarify something. This list contains free sources of website traffic. While they are free, they all require work and time. I have included some additional, premium options, in case you're interested.
1. SEO: Write for Search
SEO (Writing for Search): Before hitting “Publish”, invest a few minutes to optimize your post for search. Over time, you'll see huge returns in targeted (and free) traffic from search engines.
Writing for search basically means letting search engines know what your post is about. Because each post is about just one topic, search engines can easily index your content.
While writing for search is important, search engines should never be your target audience. Focus first on your human readers. Then optimize that content, so search engines can properly index it.
It should only take 10-15 minutes per post to do some basic optimization. You'll want to optimize images, meta description, title, url and headers. Be careful not to keyword-stuff your posts (adding your keyword an inordinate number of times) or use keywords that don't accurately represent your content.
- 4 SEO Tactics That Damage Your Brand’s Reputation | Convince & Convert
- SEO for Dummies Check it out on Amazon
- 500 SEO Tips Essential Strategies To Bulldoze Through Google's Rankings, Increase Traffic and Go Viral. Check it out on Amazon
How to Get Started with Writing for Search
Install the Yoast SEO plugin on your WordPress blog. The basic (free) version is all you need to get started. Once you choose a focus keyword, it will help you optimize your content (including headings, titles, URL, content, and meta descriptions). While you still have to do the work, the plugin will show you what to do and then tell you how well you've done.
Take the time to understand the basics of SEO. In just a few hours, you can understand how it works and begin optimizing content that ranks in search.
2. Content Marketing
Content Marketing: This is one of my favorites. With content marketing, you can build a huge base of content that educates and converts prospects. This set of content, usually built on top of your blog, becomes an asset over time. Readers, prospects, and clients will all reference your blog – and will share the content with their friends and clients. Here are six reasons to use content marketing.
What is content marketing? Content marketing includes all the content that you produce, including your posts, pages, videos, and publications. As a blog marketing tool, content marketing includes all content published both on your site and everywhere else.
To generate traffic to your blog, you'll need to reach readers on other sites. This can be done in two ways:
- Publish epic content on your blog that others share and link to.
- Distribute your content on other blogs and platforms that drive targeted traffic to your site.
Learn more about content marketing.
Content Marketing Resources:
- 14 Content Marketing Mistakes | Storyteller Media
- Content Marketing Institute
- Epic Content Marketing (Joe Pulizzi) Check it out on Amazon
- Content Inc. (Joe Pulizzi) Check it out on Amazon
- Content Machine (Dan Norris) Check it out on Amazon
How to Get Started With Content Marketing
Contact a site with a large readership and ask if they would be interested in a guest post. You should suggest a few possible topics to write about. Consider a concise tutorial – something that gives immediate value. Think about an incentive you can offer to readers for visiting your site and subscribing. Maybe a guide, chart, or resource that relates to the guest post?
While a specific strategy is important for content on your own blog, you can try lots of things when you create content on someone else's blog. The goal is to provide value to the readers. Then both you, and the other blog owner, will be happy.
3. Forum Marketing
Forum Marketing: Share your experience and expertise with members of industry forums. These members are asking specific questions. When you give them the information they need, they'll view you as an expert. Many will visit your site or social networks to connect and learn more about you.
What is Forum Marketing? Forum marketing is also known as forum commenting or Q&A (sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers).
While you've probably used online forums before, using them as a marketing tool is different. You need to focus on answering questions. You should avoid picking fights or falling victim to trolls. You must be the professional and keep out of the muck.
Your forum signature is a fundamental part of forum marketing. It gives a brief bio and a couple of links to your sites or social networks. Your signature is how you will capture the interest you generate on the forum.
Over time, this strategy has the power to send you hundreds, even thousands, of daily visitors. The beauty of forums is that your answers remain indefinitely. And because threads often rank in search, you can receive traffic from a single post for years to come.
A few words of caution: Don't begin commenting by linking to your sites. Affiliate links are almost always in bad taste. And never ask questions only to answer them yourself. Other members will see through this – and you might get banned by the moderator.
Forum Marketing Resources
- Do's and Don'ts for Marketing on Online Forums | Entrepreneur.com
How to Get Started With Forum Marketing
You'll need to identify the forum(s) best suited for your audience and your expertise. Take some time to just listen to the conversations. Understand the culture and specific rules. Then begin answering questions and contributing thoughtfully.
4. Contest Marketing
Contest Marketing: The possibility of a prize is a powerful motivation. A contest is a great way to reach thousands (even hundreds of thousands) of new readers.
In a contest we ran for a travel brand, we generated more than 4500 entries – each of these people became a new email subscriber. During the contest, the site received a flood of traffic to the entry page. Even years later, the site receives traffic from the backlinks generated during the contest.
Contest Marketing Resources
- 13 Ingredients in the Perfect Social Media Contest | Convince and Convert
- 5 Awesome Social Media Contests (Plus How To Create Your Own) | Hootsuite
- Votigo: Social marketing platform. Used by Corona, GoPro, and Starwood.
How to Get Started with Contest Marketing
Choose a prize that relates to your business. If you just give away the latest iPad, you'll get 1000's of entries from people who have no interest in what you do. If you are in the travel industry, why not give away a trip for two on your flagship tour? You'll get entries from people who are interested in travel. Or if you are a consultant, why not give away a full package of your consulting service? You'll only get entries from real prospects (that's targeted traffic!) and you can later showcase what you accomplished for the winner in a future blog post.
By setting up some joint ventures, you can arrange for a prize that doesn't cost you anything. Reach out to businesses in a parallel niche and they may offer a great prize for the exposure you'll offer them.
Remember to require something to enter. You might consider a simple newsletter subscription or maybe a social share. And don't forget: Big prizes create big results.
5. Email Marketing
Email Marketing: As you blog, you should be collecting the email addresses of your readers. An email list gives you the power to bring thousands of readers back to your site. They'll see your new content, build trust in your company and (hopefully) be moved one step closer to doing business with you.
What email service should you use? There are lots of these service providers. You can find free options with a little looking. Just make sure that they have the features and security your list requires. I favor Aweber – I've been with them since 2009 and couldn't be happier. And while Aweber isn't free, it is (in my opinion) the best available.
Email Marketing Resources
- 12 of the Best Email Marketing Examples You've Ever Seen (& Why They're Great) | Hubspot
- Email Persuasion: Captivate and Engage Your Audience, Build Authority and Generate more Sales with Email Marketing (Ian Brodie) Check it out on Amazon
How to Get Started With Email Marketing:
Sign up with an email marketing service (like Aweber) and start building your list today. All these services have tools to build signup forms – and most offer auto-responder (email follow-up) scheduling. You might consider offering an incentive (like an ebook or resource list) to encourage new subscribers.
Tell subscribers what to expect in your emails. And then follow through. You must respect your subscribers. If you promise them only content updates, avoid the temptation to send constant promotional offers. You'll lose subscribers and their respect.
6. Twitter Traffic
Twitter Traffic: Twitter is one of the busiest social platforms, and can become one of your best traffic sources. It's easy to build an audience of relevant followers, and it's also easy for them to share your content with their followers – resulting in significant numbers of new visitors to your site.
According to Twitter, they have 316 million active users (as of June 30, 2015). With 500 million tweets sent per day, there is an absolute flood of content being shared on Twitter!
Curious about what's on Twitter? Check out Advanced Twitter Search.
Twitter Traffic Resources
- Buffer: This is my favorite tool. I schedule posts to publish on my multiple accounts (and on Facebook and LinkedIn). They have free and premium accounts.
- Hootsuite: This is great for scheduling posts and for managing multiple accounts.
- Revive Old Post (Lite or Pro): It lets your WordPress blog auto-share old blog posts to your Twitter feed. You can customize frequency, categories, and hashtags.
How to Get Started with Twitter Traffic
Signup for a free account. Choose a handle (or username, like @BryanMHaines) that best represents either your brand or your personal name. Twitter is becoming increasingly personal, with many bloggers choosing to use their personal name instead of their blog brand.
Next, personalize your account with a custom profile photo, header photo, and biography. Now you're ready to start sharing.
I suggest you install a plugin to automate sharing of old blog posts. I currently use Revive Old Post, but there are a number of great options. If you have an archive of old, evergreen posts, I recommend using BulkBuffer to bulk upload your CSV database of old posts to Buffer.
7. Blog Commenting
Blog Commenting: Bloggers love relevant, thoughtful comments on their posts. It provides undeniable social proof and usually adds to the post as a whole.
When you comment on a blog, there is almost always a website URL field. See image to the right.
The “website” field serves two purposes:
- The blog receiving the comment benefits because it establishes the authority of their commenters.
- The commenters themselves (you) benefit because of increased traffic to their site. This traffic is targeted because visitors are looking for more information related to the original topic.
While you do get a backlink from each approved comment, this isn't the reason to comment on blogs. Your goal should be to add value to the conversation. Always use your real name when commenting.
On our sites, I don't approve all URLs that are submitted. WordPress moderation allows me to easily remove the URL, and still approve the comment. If the site looks spammy or unrelated to the topic, I'll remove the URL. My primary concern is my reader's experience – and no one is benefited by low quality or unrelated site.
Caution: The URL you choose will make your name a hyperlink (see above: Serendipity Tess). This is acceptable to almost all bloggers – but if you include a URL in the body of your comment, it will likely be classified as spam – and the site owner will probably never see it.
Tip: Watch for blogs that feature CommentLuv. This is a plugin that rewards blog commenters by promoting their most recent blog post. The tool auto pulls your most recent post on the url that you enter into the “Website” field. Your post is listed under your comment with your name and the text. This is a great way to bring attention to new posts as they publish.
Blog Commenting Resources:
- Matt Cutts on Blog Comments, Links & Spam: Use Your Name, Not Keywords | Search Engine Watch
- Killer Comments: How to Grow Your Traffic, RSS & Google Rankings with Comments | Blog Tyrant
- An Advanced Guide to an Effective SEO Commenting Strategy | Quick Sprout
How to Get Started with Blog Commenting
Identify 10 to 15 authority blogs that write for your audience. It is best if it's in a parallel niche, so the site owners don't feel threatened by your presence.
Regularly visit these sites and become a part of the community. Be sure to add value with each comment. If you have a post on your site that is related to the discussion, use that URL in the “website” field instead of your homepage. This gives new visitors a better user experience.
8. Guest Blogging
Guest Blogging: Blog about your niche on another related blog, and be introduced to a whole new set of readers. By sharing your expertise, you'll establish authority and gain new readers and customers.
But does guest blogging still work?
In Matt Cutts' post The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO he puts the kabosh on guest blogging. Or does he?
“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”
So, if you are guest blogging just for links – and publishing poor quality content – then you should stop. But if you are doing it to add value and build authority, then it's still a viable marketing tactic.
Guest Blogging Resources
- 3 Ways Guest Posting Can Help Grow Your Online Audience | Jeff Goins
- Power Guest Posting for SEO | Search Engine Watch
- The Ultimate Guide to Guest Blogging | Neil Patel
- How to Write an Effective Guest Post for High-Traffic Bloggers | Ramit Sethi
How to Get Started with Guest Blogging
Identify the blogs that would be a good fit for your brand. Start with 5-10 potential candidates and see what their policy is. Many large blogs have submission forms and published criteria for guest blogs.
Take the time to write an effective bio. You should also think about a specific piece of content (ebook or resource) you can offer to readers. This is a good way to get them to visit your site and/or subscribe to your email list.
Alternative to Guest Blogging: Instead of creating custom content for a guest post, why not consider syndicating (or republishing) your content on another blog? While this requires some thought, it's a popular way to reach more readers with your post. There is a possible loss of SEO if your content is published on a much more popular site than yours. If you are considering syndication, you should check out Buffer's Blueprint to Guest Blogging and Syndication.
9. Social Media Share Buttons
Social Media Share Buttons: One of your best sources of traffic comes from current readers sharing your posts. Their share is a powerful endorsement of your content.
Make it easy for readers to share your content with simple share buttons.
Update (May 23, 2016): I've been using the Share app by SumoMe for the last few months and I've loving it.
I like Mashshare because it shows a total share count on each post. This provides powerful social proof – proof that hundreds or thousands of other people also benefited from the post. This encourages new readers to also share it – and it gives authority to you as a blogger.
There are countless WordPress plugins for social sharing. WordPress even makes one, inside of Jetpack.
Social Media Share Buttons Resources
- Mashshare (Free or Premium): I use the free version on all my sites. There is a huge set of add-ons that add more function to the already solid plugin. See all the add-ons.
- Monarch Social Sharing: This plugin by Elegant Themes looks good. I haven't used it, but it has lots of positive reviews. And it is very customizable. This is a premium plugin – you get access to six plugins and 87 themes with your membership.
- There are some other popular options, including: AddToAny, Social Media Feather, and Jetpack Sharing.
How to Get Started with Social Media Share Buttons
Install the free version of Mashshare on your blog. I have it set to display at both the top and bottom of the post. Displaying at the top provides social proof, and at the bottom is a great call to action for enjoyed content.
10. Maximize Social Media
Maximize Social Media: In this post, I've covered a number of different social media channels (Twitter, YouTube, Reddit). But there are hundreds of social networks – each with their own culture and specific benefits.
To maximize your social media channels, you need to know where your audience is hanging out. Young marketers, for example, hang out on different networks than retired travelers. Who is your audience and what network(s) do they favor?
There are some basic networks, that you should start with. I recommend Twitter, Facebook (Pages and Groups) and YouTube. From there, you might consider Pinterest, Instagram, SlideShare, LinkedIn Groups, Flickr, Snapchat or Vine. But be careful. There are new networks being released almost every week. Don't get caught up in the latest craze. Choose carefully where you'll invest your marketing time.
Don't forget to use social media share buttons (point #9).
Maximize Social Media Resources
- Buffer: I use this app for auto-publishing my new (and old) content out to multiple networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and G+). Check out Buffer's Social Media Blog for lots of amazing insights. They have free and premium accounts.
- The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users. Check it out on Amazon
- Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Amazing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and More. Check it out on Amazon
How to Get Started with Maximizing Social Media
First of all, choose the networks to focus on. And don't even touch the others. Once you determine where your audience is, leave the other ones alone. You need to focus your efforts to succeed with social media.
I suggest signing up with Buffer, or a similar social media automation tool. And make sure to understand the culture of each network you are using. What's acceptable on one, might be taboo (or even get you banned) on another.
11. Blogger Outreach
Blogger Outreach: While tools and tactics have their place, there is nothing like sending a personal email or actually speaking to someone.
But reaching out to other bloggers and influencers only works if you have outstanding content. If your content is crap, promotion is the last thing you should be doing.
If you have relevant, complementary content then other bloggers should be interested. You might see your content shared across their social channels or maybe added to a future post as a resource.
Blogger Outreach Resources
- How To Achieve Incredible Results With Blogger Outreach | Blogging Wizard
- The Why, What, and How of Blogger Outreach | Moz
- The Ultimate Resource Guide to Blogger Outreach and Guest Blogging | Neil Patel
- Blogger Outreach: A Killer Guide | Razor Social
How to Get Started with Blogger Outreach
You'll need to focus on relationships – not links. Bloggers are tired of receiving “Hey, I love your blog – check out my amazing post” emails. You'll need to show them why it matters and why their audience should care.
Blog commenting (see point #7) is a great way to begin building relationships with other bloggers. Once you are known to provide value in your comments, they'll be much more likely to look at your epic content. And don't forget to share their content.
Remember: The internet is a relationship economy. You'll need to give to get.
Look for bloggers who publish top post/roundup posts of great content in their niche. They'll probably be eager to have a new source of authoritative content. Years ago, a blogger who published daily roundup posts, catapulted our new travel site to popularity by including our content in each post. You should also look for resource pages in your niche.
12. Content Aggregators (RSS Feed)
Content Aggregators: It can take a long time for your site to get indexed by Google. To accelerate the process, you can get your content listed in popular content aggregators where thousands of people will see it.
Some aggregators require that you submit each post individually. Others auto-post your new content from your RSS feed.
It's important that you pay attention to the rules of each aggregator. If you submit posts that are either unrelated (wrong topic) or promotional (not allowed by any site) then they'll just be removed. You could be banned, but even if you aren't, it'll still be a waste of time.
Content Aggregators Resources
- Content Aggregators to check out: Alltop, Growth Hackers, BizSugar, BlogEngage (pay only), and Triberr.
How to Get Started with Content Aggregators
To get started, I suggest you visit Alltop and Triberr. They both cover all topics and are easy to get listed. I've personally had the most success with Triberr – and have seen significant sharing on Twitter. Triberr has a free and premium option. I've used the premium but have scaled it back to the basic and still have good activity on my content.
13. YouTube Traffic
YouTube Traffic: It's no secret that YouTube is the world's second largest search engine. And it's also no secret that it has almost limitless traffic potential.
The problem is that it can be hard to get noticed. Over 4 billion videos are viewed each day. And one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube each second.
YouTube Traffic Resources
- 5 Advanced YouTube SEO Tactics For More Traffic | Brian Dean, Search Engine Watch
- 8 Ways to Maximize Your YouTube Marketing Results | Social Media Examiner
- How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck Check it out on Amazon
How to Get Started with YouTube Traffic
Setup your brand channel, complete with description, keywords, watermark, icon, and links to your site and social networks. Setup your feature/welcome video for non-subscribers.
For individual videos, make sure to optimize your title and description for search. Don't forget to include site links (to specific posts or resource pages) in your description.
Enable your account for external annotation links. These allow you to add clickable links to each video. These calls to action can drive traffic to specific posts and sales pages.
14. Reddit Marketing
This is one I don't have any experience with. I don't understand the culture. It is something I will learn – and I'll share the results in a future post.
The expression “Reddit marketing” is considered an oxymoron and is enough to get the typical Redditor pretty fired up. Redditors hate marketers. It's not personal – that's just how it is.
Reddit's wiki says this about self-promotion:
“It’s perfectly fine to be a redditor with a website, it’s not okay to be a website with a reddit account.”
Reddit Marketing Resources
- Reddit Hates Marketing. How to Market on it Anyway | Advertising Age
- The Marketers Guide to Reddit | Neil Patel
- Cracking Reddit: Get 1000's of Visitors to Your Campaign with Reddit Marketing | StartupBros
How to Get Started with Reddit Marketing
Open an account. Subscribe to a number of subreddits (categories). Do not post links to your site. Comment on other posts and establish some karma (how your reputation is measured). Some marketers suggest posting your own link no more than once every two weeks. And this post must be exceptional. Nothing promotional.
15. Content Curation
Content Curation: Because of the flood of new content being created every day (some good, most mediocre), curation is becoming more important.
Curation tools help pull the great content to the top. You can create boards and lists that highlight your, and other, related content. This makes it easier for others to include your content in their lists and boards.
Some curation tools to consider:
Content Curation Resources
- 26 Free (or Free-to-Try) Content Curation Tools | Search Engine Watch
- 47 Content Curation Tools: The Ultimate List | Curata
- Curate This: The Hands-On, How-To Guide To Content Curation Check it out on Amazon
- Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators Check it out on Amazon
How to Get Started with Content Curation
Find the curation tool that best fits with your niche and audience. Learn how it works and how to promote your curated boards and lists. Many of these apps will connect with your Twitter or Facebook pages. Some offer a function to embed into your site.
Putting it All Together: Free Traffic Sources
And there you have it! 15 free targeted website traffic sources complete with resource lists. Hopefully you are overflowing with great ideas.
Where do you go from here? As you probably noticed, many of these ideas overlap and definitely work well together. You'll need to test and adjust. Not all these sources are suited for every niche. Choose one or two and get started today.
Be sure to bookmark this post.
What free traffic sources have you used? What's working for you right now?
Have another suggestion or resource? Please add it below!