The Crazy Easy guide to getting traffic part 2: Free site promotion

By Anand D | Thursday, 4 February 2016

Did you read The Crazy Easy guide to getting traffic part 1? Take a couple of minutes now to go and check it out.

Now that you're finished, let's take a look at free promotion for your website.

Free promotion

Everyone loves free things.

As soon as people hear "free", they charge forward. But before charging into any of this, remember – it's free, but takes a lot of work.

That said, there's a powerful 1-2 punch you can use to skyrocket traffic, sales and build the reputation of your brand.

Let's look at what you need to do.

Remember that in the spirit of our Crazy Easy guides, this is not comprehensive. It's the first place you can learn about free site promotion – but do further reading to find more answers.

Inbound marketing

This is where most people would write "SEO" and leave it at that.

But I'm not most people. SEO is only one part of the picture.

A search engine is a giant digital confession booth, shopping mall and information directory.

And it's got only one job: to give people what they want. It's a very simple sentiment, but it bears repeating over and over until it's completely imprinted on your brain.

Search engines give people what they want based on what they're looking for.

Let's say you've got a sporting goods company in Melbourne and your site ranks high for the phrase "buy tennis balls in Melbourne".

That's awesome. People who want to buy tennis balls and are looking for a place to get them are going to come right to you. Once they're at your site, you know that they want tennis balls (they searched for them, after all) so the chances of buying them are high.

So how do you rank for this search query?

You make sure that when the search engine decides to give people a great site, it decides to give them yours. You can break it down into three important areas:

Technical optimisation

This can be understood as making sure your site works properly and that search engines can read it. Obviously if things are broken, then your site isn't what people want.

If it takes fifteen seconds for a page to load, that isn't what people want.

This is pretty obvious… but what is less obvious is that there are things that search robots don't understand.

Is your site text delivered using pictures? Bots can't read pictures.

Do you have a bunch of pages with similar or thin content? Bots see them as being all the same.

Is your site an unreadable piece of junk on mobile? Bots really don't like that.

Are your pages isolated with no links between them? Bots can't find them.

Do these questions make your head hurt? We haven't even scratched the surface.

Now you know why SEO firms can charge thousands of dollars a month.

Luckily, for many small sites with simple technology behind them (WordPress, Joomla!, Magento) these problems are mostly resolved – not completely, but to the level that the majority of people will need. These platforms are good because they are fairly SEO-friendly.

You can use plugins like Yoast to help you with the technical optimisation of your WordPress site.

But there's more.

On-page optimisation

Next, we deal with how well the search engine is able to understand your content and how much it likes it.

Text should be readable by search engines – that means it needs to be delivered in HTML, not images or Flash.

But there's much more to it than that.

Your method of delivering content just lets the bots understand what your page is about.

People, on the other hand, care about what you write. And search engines care about what people care about.

Everyone tells you to write good content… but few people tell you how.

Luckily, I'm not everyone.

There are a few vital things you need to remember when writing.

1. Be relevant and specific about a single topic.

Let's go with an example.

Imagine writing a post about nutrition and targeting the keywords "high-protein snacks".

What are people searching this term interested in?

They want snacks, so they're interested in small things they can eat throughout the day.

They want options, so give them a list.

They want high protein, so include the nutrition facts.

And, most importantly, you search the competition.

The best article might have 25 snack ideas.

Bump that to 50. Sit and sweat and rack your brains until you come up with a piece of content that's so much better than everything else that it blows it out of the water.

See what I mean about it being a lot of work?

On the technical side, make sure our robot overlords absolutely understand what your post is about.

Include the subject in:

  • The title tag (50 High-Protein Snacks That You Can Make in Five Minutes)
  • The URL (my-site.com/high-protein-snacks)
  • Any image alt text (Greek yogurt is a high-protein snack)
  • The content itself (but not too many times, and not trying to artificially stick it in places where it doesn't belong)

2. Provide unique content

"Unique" doesn't mean that you read Wikipedia and shuffled the words around.

It means that your content not only hasn't appeared anywhere else on the internet, it also provides a unique viewpoint, new ideas, or expert analysis.

3. Link to your other content

If you write the post above about high-protein snacks, you might also have written a post about healthy meals that people can make in a hurry.

Link back to it. Maybe your readers will be interested in that post.

If you have a store and you sell jackets, include a link to pairs of mittens or boots or other items that people often buy together.

This helps the robots navigate your site and provides your users with even more value.

Off-page optimisation

It's all about relationships.

Search engines look at a number of external factors to understand how much people value your content and, basically, why they should rank you.

Think about it:

If you go to a web page that solves half of your problems, are you going to put a link to it on your site?

Are you going to share it on social media?

Of course not.

You want something that your visitors will also find valuable.

So how do you get links and social shares?

If you think that links and sharing are primarily a reflection of how good your site is, without any other considerations, you're in for a nasty shock.

Reach out. Build relationships with other websites – after all, we often forget that the internet is a network.

If you are truly offering value on your site and being genuine in your outreach, people will respond. Obviously don't spam people with requests for links, but if you can get on someone's radar and build a real relationship with them, that can be worth a fortune.

This can be as simple as mentioning their product in your articles and on Twitter a couple times, or it may require a lot of email outreach.

This is a short, very condensed version of what you need to do to get your site to rank in search engines.

There's another way of promoting your site for free, though.

Excited? Think it's going to be easier?

Think again.

Social media marketing

SMM is a much less exact science than SEO, which is saying quite a lot.

That's because search engines tend to prefer certain types of sites – authoritative sites with lots of links, engagement, and in-depth content.

Social media depends entirely on your audience, and that's a golden mantra you have to repeat to yourself over and over again.

It's not about me. It's about them.

One group of people likes cat videos, another scientific articles.

Sites can go from blank WordPress installations to having ten thousand visitors their first month all because their content appealed to social networks.

If you truly understand your audience, then your social media presence will be unstoppable. If you don't, you'll never make waves no matter how many times you try to optimise your campaigns.

If there's a golden rule to social media marketing, it's this:

These people have let you into their lives. Respect that.

If they complain, listen.

If they ignore you, post something different.

This is general advice, but there are specific rookie lessons everyone should learn.

The biggest ones are listed below:

1. Don't spread yourself too thin

It's tempting to create accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube, Medium, Flickr, LiveJournal, Reddit and Vimeo right away…

…but you shouldn't, for the simple reason that it's better to do one social platform well than to do fifteen badly.

2. Share other people's stuff

Remember your audience.

You might produce 2-3 pieces of content a week if you're prolific. In the meantime, give people something that might interest them. Other content creators will also thank you.

3. Network

Just like in the SEO section of this article, you need to connect: because this is a network.

The idea that you can operate like the biggest, most famous brands in the world and just publish funny content only leads to frustration.

Reach out to other people – comment on their posts, share their content, and remember…

4. Be a human being, not a brand

That's what it takes to promote your site for free. On social networks and everywhere else, remember – people don't connect with brands, they want to connect with personalities.

You can optimise everything, but if you act like a robot, people are going to treat you like one.

Wrapping up

Hopefully, you've learned something new about SEO and SMM and can go out into the world armed with those new acronyms to get more traffic for your site.

It's not easy, but nothing worthwhile is.

We hope you get a lot out of using these tips, and that your sites are successful in the future.