When dealing with business over the internet, traffic = customers, and customers = money. If you’re starting a website and wondering how to get free traffic to your website, or if it’s even possible, don’t worry. There’s plenty of ways you can take advantage of free traffic sources – you don’t have to spend thousands up front!
Since there are countless recommendations by various programs and bloggers on this topic, I want to spend some time going over some of the more popular methods and give you some advice and my personal experiences using each of them. I know it can be difficult to know what really works or where to even start, so I invite you all to use my experience as a guide.
Method #1 – Search Engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo)
Businesses pay massive amounts of money every year to be listed in the big search engines like Google and Bing. Why? Because it works! If you can manage to get your site ranked organically (meaning, without paying for the listing) and on the 1st page for lots of search terms you can send lots of highly targeted traffic to your site. About 80% of my traffic comes from free search listings.
The best part about this type of traffic is that in my experience, it’s one of the highest quality and best converting sources you can get. It’s great because it attracts a very focused audience which is more likely to be interested in what you have to say or what you are selling. The best part is, you can get traffic this way for 100% free if you have patience and are willing to invest the time and energy.
The downside? It can take awhile to see results if you go the free route. It’s so easy to launch a website nowadays, and with thousands of new ones popping up every day, it’s easy to understand why search engines like Google don’t easily trust new websites. You need to consistently add content to your website for at least a few months (if not several) before you start seeing results.
It may not be the easiest place to get free traffic, and for that reason there are many people who don’t recommend you even try, claiming ranking in Google organically is impossible! (Which isn’t true!) It just takes a lot of work, and most people aren’t willing to do it.
Even so, I still recommend search listings as my #1 free traffic source to anyone with a website. It’s completely worth it.
Get awesome training on how to use Google and other search engines for a FREE source of traffic
Don’t forget about Google Images!
In addition to the normal search results, don’t forget about the image searches! People search by images all the time, and I think it’s a very underrated traffic source.
If you properly keyword name each image you upload to your website, as well as provide alt text along with it, you can see some pretty good traffic just from images alone. I had one article get 1,000’s of hits just from a ranking image result alone…. I didn’t even rank for the actual article!
Never forget to label your images and you may be amazed at the additional traffic they’ll bring!
Method #2 – Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
I’ve seen results from Facebook, but it is very minimal compared to other sources. There are a lot of people saying you HAVE to have a social media profile these days, but I don’t agree. What ends up happening often times is people get so caught up in the social media scene, trying to gain a following or worrying about what to post they really are just wasting time that could be better spent on other marketing methods.
But don’t get me wrong – social media can be a great source of traffic for a lot of businesses. It all depends on the energy you’re willing to invest. It takes quite a bit of work and time to build up a large enough following to really make promoting your page worth the effort.
However, because of all the connections that exist within social media, it can make spreading the word about your website much faster and easier than it may be in real life. So while it my help with an initial boost of followers and traffic, it takes sustained energy and time to really build a quality following with Facebook and Twitter.
Method #3 – Pinterest
Pinterest is usually lumped into the realm of social media, but it’s quite a bit different from Facebook and other platforms if you ask me. If you aren’t familar with this one, it’s basically a social platform for bookmarking websites. It’s an extremely VISUAL source, so if your niche is visual then you don’t want to exclude it. (Also consider using Instagram)
The thing is, the extent to which you can use Pinterest for traffic really depends on your niche. Highly visual niches like arts/crafts, fashion, hair care, home decor, camping, weight loss, baking, and cooking tend to do very well, but there are also many categories that many not quite fit in.
Think about the demographis of most Pinterest users – it is highly dominated by younger females (18 – 44) and used to save ideas for recipes, fashion or home decor. I had a lot of success using Pinterest for my niche in fashion, but not so much for others.
If you have an image rich niche, add unique content and photos to the Pinterest world, and know how to properly engage with the site, you may find it to be another well focused and converting free source of traffic for your website.
Method #4 – YouTube
YouTube is one of the better entirely free traffic sources out there. It’s a great way to funnel traffic back to your website, as you can drop your website link within the description box of each video as well as advertise it within your videos.
Another plus side is YouTube videos now show up in the regular Google search results, so if you spend the energy creating quality videos and know how to properly target keywords you can really drive some great traffic back to your website.
It can be a little overwhelming for some people, but sitting and talking in front of a camera isn’t necessarily the only option. You can also do things like create image slideshows, powerpoint presentations or screen casting tutorials.
Method #5 – Returning Traffic
Most businesses will tell you a large part of their revenue comes from RETURNING CUSTOMERS! This is true in the world of online business as well, so don’t overlook it as another source of traffic.
It’s great to get initial traffic to your site, but after you’ve established a bit of an online presence, you obviously want visitors to keep coming back. Not only is it easier to sell to someone who is familiar with your business, but it takes a lot less effort to attract repeat customers then brand new ones all the time.
So, how exactly do you get people coming back? Well, social media platforms help if you gain a following and actively engage with them… but another huge (and more effective) way is with email marketing. This is when websites ask for your name and email address, often times in exchange for something like receiving updates, an ebook or a free course.
Once you build a list, you can keep in touch with them to build relationships and market to them again in the future.
So which one works best?
There are hundreds of methods for getting free traffic to your site, but only a fraction of them will yield quality results. While I’ve gotten results from all of these, and definitely still rank search engines as #1, you may discover your website reacts better to certain traffic sources than others, and that will just vary by niche. I’ve cherry picked the best ways I’ve discovered through my personal online business experiences, and hope they can bring you some insight as to what may be best for your business.
There may be an entire world of paid traffic out there, but if you’re willing to spend your time and resources on learning to get free traffic first, you can save yourself a ton of money.
What have you discovered to be your best free traffic sources? I’m curious to know what has worked for others out there!
Some really good options you’ve covered here but by far the most powerful one is social media. I own 5 websites and only 4 of them have SEO involved. My last website is in the health niche and I decided to forget keyword research, google….everything – and just write. I get over 1000 visitors a day from social media alone – never checked it’s ranking and never thoughtfully used a keyword. Social Media is POWERFUL stuff! 🙂
Yeah I have heard others say the same thing about social media. I think it really depends on several factors like your niche and where you want to invest your effort because many have the exact opposite experience. I have a few questions – did you invest any money into social media, whether it be to gain likes or boost your posts? Also do you find the traffic converts well?
Hi there Wendy,
My best free traffic sources are from the search engines, Google Image and Pinterest. I am still trying to figure out how Twitter and Facebook work for business. There are just too many social media and each behaves differently.
I have not started email marketing, so that’s pretty new to me too. Question; What criteria/factors do you look at before doing email marketing? Did you achieve a certain threshold with free search traffic OR simply have the budget for an auto-responder ?
Thanks for your tips!
It is a matter of opinion, some will say you should start creating a list immediately and others recommend you wait until you are getting real traffic and making money. Personally if you want to pay for an autoresponder would wait at least until you are converting your traffic into sales and are making enough money from your business that it’s worth the investment. However, you can always start collecting emails with a free service (like Mailchimp) and once you get the budget for it, upgrade the membership or transfer the list to another service.
Your absolutely right on with your first point. It’s remarkable how many people will say that you’ll never get first page ranking – even when they’ve never even tried it themselves…lol
When you say returning traffic and email lists – is there a particular provider you would recommend (such as Aweber or MailChimp)? Or is there a WordPress plugin that can handle this?
Personally I use Aweber but I also heard very good things about GetResponse (which I’m considering switching too). There are free WordPress plugins that’ll collect emails but they’re very poor quality and not comparable to a true autoresponder. I used a few of them and they didn’t work well at all.
Free traffic to your website is essential for online business owners, especially beginners who don’t have cash to pay for it or the know-how to implement it correctly.
It all starts with quality content that helps and engages people, which will result in higher search engine rankings, as you mentioned. Then the social media platforms can help get your content out there to the masses even more. This is a great list.
Yeah, I agree. A lot of programs teach beginners to go for the gold and spend tens of thousands on paid advertising methods. The problem comes when people deplete their life savings or go into massive debt trying to do so. Even worse, most people have no experience and poor guidance, which ends up turning their efforts into a gamble. Free is great for beginners… people should gain some experience in marketing and create converting campaigns before they throw money at them… it turns a gamble into a great investment.
I’m learning to be patient with rankings in google and Bing so great to know that patience and persistence from your article is the way to go.
I’m also new to social media and have started up with pinterest (which is is fantastic for a newbie like me). what are your thoughts around tumblr and instagram? I only want to really use two to help outreach my niche website. Or is there any other you would recommend. That’s simple to use….I got a headache just trying to sign up with tumblr.
Have started Youtube channel…but that’s a whole another story 🙂
To be completely honest I’ve never used Tumblr so I’m not sure how effective it’d be. I think Instagram is similar to Pinterest and would help if you had a very visual niche (fashion, weight loss, cooking, etc) with a younger following.
I am a big fan of organic traffic from google. I do use social media but not a lot. Facebook is not the greatest place to get traffic from, at least not if you are a small business. I get a small amount from twitter. I do use google plus the most , mainly because google owns it and so it can’t hurt. But overall I think you have to have great content and you will make your way up though google
I agree, I think content is what ultimately matters and if you consistently add great content to your blog you will work your way to the top!
Thanks for the tips on real free traffic. That’s what I need is some real traffic right now. I’m going to work on your suggestions.
I agree with you about using social media. I didn’t use them prior to starting my own business and I definitely had a learning curve with them. I spend a lot of time trying to post on the 5 major ones. Note because I get engrossed in reading all the activity, but because it just takes to a long time to go through everything and getting used to doing what needs to be done. Personally, I prefer not to use any of them.
Thanks for sharing.
Yeah, it can be overwhelming if you aren’t experienced with it. I had never used Google+ before I started my websites and it was extremely confusing! They don’t make it intuative. If you find yourself struggling too much with social media I would move on to other things because your time could be better spent elsewhere.
Hi Wendy, thanks for your great tips. My website is very young (since February2016) so I am always looking for ways to increase my traffic. I have signed up with Pinterest and G+. I found the latter really good. I have noticed when I share an article on my G+ site I can find it on Page 1 in Google Search. But I am also going to try PPC with a $50 voucher that Bing is giving to new customers.
Make sure you’re viewing the search results incognito or in a private browser… Google+ remembers your search history and knows your personally, so they will customize results just for you. This can make your website pages show up on the 1st page even though they really aren’t. Good luck with your PPC campaigning!
This is so true! I totally agree that Google is the best way and that social media is mostly overrated. I’ve also had people tell me how crucial it is to have a bunch of different social media accounts and have big followings but it takes a lot of time and energy to build these up! I find that you can get so caught up in this, it can detract from the energy you’re focusing on getting your actual website ranked! Anyways – great resource, maybe if you could include links to some different softwares to use for making Youtube slideshows and presentations? Or also if you could write a little tutorial on the best ways to get ranked in Google? I would find that super helpful!
Thanks for the great info!
Yeah, I have heard that same advice about social media and it really isn’t true. I think the businesses that experience the greatest results from their social media marketing campaigns (at least Facebook) are the huge multi million/billion dollar industries that have full time social media managers and millions of followers. Now, if you get into the world of paid Facebook advertising it is a different story… it’s much easier to see results (but, this is about FREE traffic, so it’s irrelevant)
Anyway, yes I can try and incorporate those ideas into future articles! Thank you for the suggestions 🙂
Great article. I definitely agree with you about FaceBook being somewhat overrated, for the work from home niche anyway.
I got plenty of “likes” but no serious inquiries. I agree the organic traffic is the way to go.
And while I’m waiting for google to appreciate me, I’ll incorporate some PPC and even offline marketing
Yeah, Facebook can be pretty difficult to get serious sales sometimes. Despite how popular social media is, I still think email marketing is far superior in terms of conversion. PPC is definitely much faster and if you have the budget and know what you’re doing it can be very profitable. I wish you the best!
This article was very informative.
I just started a website not too long ago and have been looking for a relatively easy way to boost my traffic. Everything that you mentioned in your article will be a great help to me and my website.
I am not a big fan of social media and was looking fr a way around it. But, I understand that it is necessary and will follow all of the steps accordingly .
Thank you for the information.
I’m glad I could offer some valuable advice for your new website Kevin! Well, like I stated above I don’t think social media is necessary in all cases and I think many times people spend too much time on it when they could be doing other marketing methods that will produce better results. It’s really all about what works for you and your business!