Starting a site is relatively easy when compared to actually getting visitors. Beginners think that simply building a site means that visitors will come automatically. The reality is the other way around. Getting and retaining visitors is the hardest thing for most.
A friend of mine told me that his goal is to have 500 loyal visitors daily within the first six months of launching a new site. Most sites will never attract that large an audience.
In a world of millions of websites, starting a new one is not news, but growing it to attract hundreds of true fans is. 500 daily visitors is a very ambitious goal, it’s not easy to reach but it is possible to do.
Without a promotional push, your content will most probably go unnoticed no matter how good it is. This guide will show you my online marketing routine and actions I take to draw people’s attention to my content. If you’d like to get visitors to your content, you will love these traffic driving principles. Let’s get to it…
80% of all referral traffic comes from two sources: Google and Facebook
Trying to get visitors to your content without having a marketing strategy for Facebook and without doing search engine optimization (SEO) for Google won’t be very successful. These two platforms deserve standalone guides:
- Read my standalone Google guide: SEO 101: How To Rank Your Posts On Google’s First Page.
- Read my standalone Facebook guide: 25 Steps To Increase Your Facebook Page Reach And Engagement.
You’re a dinner host; get your house (site) ready for your guests (visitors) first
Think of yourself as a dinner host. Before inviting guests, you need to make sure that your house (your site) is ready to host your guests (your potential visitors).
1. Get a domain name that helps people discover you
You need a unique domain name for your site. That’s how your visitors will find you (and remember you).
In my experience, an inviting and descriptive domain name works much better than one of those long and free domain names. It especially helps you rank well in the search engines. If you don’t have one, register it, and you won’t regret it.
Here’s my guide on picking a memorable domain name.
2. Earn attention by publishing amazing content with eye-catching headlines
Posting valuable content that your target audience wants is the most effective thing you can do to generate visitor interest.
When it comes to content, you should focus on quality and not quantity. People are bombarded with too many choices for things to click on. One excellent article with a remarkable and irresistible post headline will bring you so much more traffic than many dull and uninviting posts.
Every other step you can take to attract visitors relies on the quality of articles that you publish.
Check out my complete guide to creating excellent, high-quality content.
3. Turn first-time visitors into true fans and build direct connections
A visitor that comes to your site, spends a few seconds on it, but clicks on the “back” button and never comes back, is a lost opportunity. You need to get a first-time visitor to become a true fan that you can reach out to and get them to return again and again.
Make it easy for people to give you permission to stay in touch with them. Let them subscribe to your email newsletter. Open rates on emails are higher than reach you get in social media. Email is an open platform and very easy to start with. It’s a direct line of communication with you in control.
4. Facilitate social media sharing
Word of mouth and social media play a significant role in the viral spreadability of your content. Your true fans love your content. You should empower them and encourage them to help you spread the word and do the marketing for you.
Include social media sharing buttons on all your content. Highlight most important points of your post and ask people to share them.
Here’s a list of WordPress plugins that can help you integrate social media.
Now it’s the time to send out those guest invites
You’ve created what you believe is a great article, gone through the checklist of things to do before publishing, and your article is now live. Your house is all tidy and ready.
Don’t just sit and wait for visitors to come. It won’t happen. They won’t come. Now it’s the time to send out the guest invites. Without invites, no guests will know about you, and nobody will show up.
1. Tailor your promotional approach to the particular social network
There’s a lot of potential in reusing and recycling your content in different formats on different platforms. In general, all the platforms are very visual so posting attractive and shareworthy imagery is a great start and will result in more reach and engagement.
Inspirational quotes. Curious stats, impressive facts and nice graphs. Funny videos. Provocative statements. Here’s how it works for BuzzFeed:
A seven-step web recipe for slow-cooker chicken becomes a 46-second Facebook video, and then a 15-second Instagram clip with the instructions written as a comment, and finally a Pinterest post with two images and a link back to the Facebook video. And if it’s going on Snapchat, it needs to be shot in portrait mode as well. It’s all the exact same recipe, but “we put it on Facebook, and we put it on YouTube, and we put it on AOL and Yahoo, and all of a sudden it’s 15 different MP4 files.”
Take, for example, the series about short-girl problems: It began with an article on the website that attracted more than 8 million views, titled “30 Awkward Moments Every Short Girl Understands”; it then became a scripted YouTube video (“10 Problems Only Short Girls Understand”); and ultimately it inspired a cartoon titled Trans Girl Problems that appeared on Facebook.
2. Don’t just post once. Repeat the push multiple times
Aim to repeat the push on particular platforms several times over the few weeks after publishing your latest post. Sharing more than once brings many more clicks as most followers don’t see the first post. It’s a fact that only a small percentage of your total audience actually sees what you publish in social media.
It’s a very big mistake and a loss of opportunity if you just promote your latest article for a day or two, and then focus on promoting a new article you have just published. Don’t be scared to tweet and Facebook the article again even though it is only a refreshed “old” article. Distribute your great and updated posts to those of your followers who may have missed it the first time around.
Nobody is bothered by you reposting and your clicks will increase, so it’s hard to argue against this. Add some variety and mix it up if you wish not to be repetitive and boring. Update your older content too with refreshed data and information, and promote it again too.
3. Monitor and analyse the results of your activities
Take a look at the results, feedback and the data on your marketing push. What is the pickup like in the social media? This will help you figure out what went well and what didn’t go so well. It will help you improve and optimise your marketing strategy.
You might need to make some slight changes to the original post itself according to the feedback to make it more interesting. You can try with a different format or a different angle to the story. Can you make a better headline or a more interesting image for example?
See my guide on using Google Analytics to optimize your marketing activities.
Places to share, promote and distribute your content
Ensure that you actively spend time on reaching out to new people and spread the word about your work. You do need to take massive marketing action right now.
Take advantage of the network effect on social media. Create a marketing routine of places where you share your content, and follow it after publishing each new post. Don’t just only use the same channels and platforms that everyone else uses. That’s a trap. Find the right channels to focus your marketing effort on instead. Places where your potential audience is.
Here’s the list of all the places I go to in order to share my content. These platforms are tools for you to reach that audience, introduce them to the work you’re doing and get them to visit your site. Some may not fit your target audience, some will.
Go through the list. Experiment with all the possible sources and see which are more or less effective (or more or less expensive) for your specific situation and your target audience. Make your own list and use it every time after you’ve published something new.
Send your latest post to your mailing list
If you have a newsletter or a mailing list of loyal subscribers, you should send some special (or even all) posts to them. These could be the first wave of visitors that help you share your new content to even more people.
Syndicate (or guest post) your content to bigger sites
The idea is to go to big sites that are popular with your target audience, publish excellent content as a contributor, and use it to attract new visitors to your site. Many sites host articles from a variety of writers.
Write a targeted article that’s useful and attracting to that particular kind of audience (some sites even allow you to repost your existing content). Include a link (or two) to content that’s already published on your site to make it easier for readers to click over and visit you
Here’s a list of some of the most popular sites that are looking for writers:
- Medium.com – Submit your post.
- LinkedIn Publishing Network – How to submit your post.
- Business2Community – Become a contributor.
- Business Insider – How to contribute.
- BuzzFeed – Submit your community post.
- Entrepreneur.com – Become a contributor.
- Fast Company – Guidelines for submitting contributed articles.
- Forbes – Submitting an article.
- Harvard Business Review – Contributor guidelines.
- Huffington Post – Submit your pitch.
- Inc. Magazine – Contributing to Inc.
- Mashable – Submit news.
- Moz – YouMoz community guidelines.
- New York Times – How to submit an op-ed article.
- SocialMediaToday – How to post.
- TechCrunch – Submit your post.
Here’s my complete guide on guest posting and content syndication: Guest Posting: The Definitive Guide.
Go to niche sites, forums and other social communities
Your audience will be somewhere and will like an expert to help them out with their questions and problems. Depending on the niche you are in there will be several community sites and forums that allow you to submit content. Sites like Hacker News. There’s a Hacker News type site out there for every niche.
Explore the platforms below and search for the specific communities relevant to your topic. Find those that look to be the most popular and the most active. Are real people actually having real conversations within the community? Or is it full of random people posting links to their sites and no engagement?
Actively sharing your content doesn’t mean that you send spam. You don’t just join and post your content. You will be ignored and banned. You should only mention your content where it makes sense, while also participating, creating value, sharing interesting information, helping people out, solving their issues, and being a part of a wider community. Spend some time learning the guidelines and the way to approach each individual community.
Think of it as informing an audience rather than a push of a marketing message that they don’t want. You know what people want and you give excellent and informative answers to their questions in your content. You help them solve their pain points. You supply their demand.
- Discover forums dedicated to your topic
How do you discover relevant communities such as forums dedicated to your topic? Do a Google search using this format including quotes: “Your topic” inurl:forum.
- Go to Facebook Groups
Go to Facebook groups too. Almost a billion of people use Facebook Groups every month and they’re highly engaging properties. Find the relevant groups to your work and start adding value. Be an authority and you will be noticed. As you begin building trust and relationships with people in the group, you can start sharing your relevant content too.
- Share it to relevant Reddit communities
Some of the articles I publish fit well in certain subreddits on Reddit. Reddit has the potential to drive thousands of visitors to you so it is definitely worth exploring if you have a relevant article to submit and you can find a relevant and popular subreddit.
- Search for hashtags chats (or people) on Twitter
I search Twitter for keywords and phrases relevant to my content and my target audience. I then follow, interact with, and help the real people who talk about and ask questions about my topics.
I used to spend hours on this every day in the early days. It’s a great real-time way of getting visitors and spreading the word about your content. It helps you establish your name in the field.
- Share it to relevant Google+ communities
Google+ may not be very popular but depending on your topic there might be some active communities on there. Search for and join relevant Google+ communities, be active by sharing your knowledge, and then post your link once in a while too.
- LinkedIn groups
Search for, join and engage in the relevant LinkedIn groups.
- Share the article on Tumblr
I keep an active Tumblr account with the main objective being for it to be a traffic driver. I post any new article on Tumblr adding the relevant tags. I have explained this strategy in this article.
- Share the image to your Pinterest boards
I submit the post image to the relevant Pinterest boards. I make sure to include a headline in all the images that I put on my site and that was mostly thanks to the increasing importance of Pinterest as a traffic driver. It makes the images look better. See more on using Pinterest for traffic.
- Other examples
Flipboard is another interesting general community. If you’re a food blogger it is worth submitting your posts to niche sites such as Foodgawker and TasteSpotting. If you’re doing video, Twitch, Facebook Live and YouTube are some that can help you with getting your content discovered.
Answer questions on Quora and other Q&A sites
Quora, Yahoo Answers, Stack Overflow and other Q&A sites are great sources of referral traffic. If you’ve researched before writing your post, you’ve probably found questions people had and answered them in your content.
Now you can go directly to the different Q&A sites, look for people asking similar questions and help them out while at the same time indirectly promoting your content. Answer questions the best that you can directly on the Q&A site, help people solve their problems and then link people back to your site if they want to learn even more by reading the full post.
Reach out to relevant influencers such as page owners and group admins
Learn how to leverage already popular sites,, Facebook pages and other niche communities in your field to send traffic to your content.
Get in touch with influencers (bloggers, journalists, Facebook page owners, Facebook group admins, forum moderators, social media power users) who have the attention of an engaged audience relevant to your field. One tweet from an influencer recommending your content can result in a cascade of traffic and shares coming your way.
This does take longer time than the other advice in this post, but it’s a robust strategy. I send personal tweets and emails to certain influencers that I think the post might be interesting to in hope of getting them to share it with their networks. I also reach out to anyone that I have mentioned in the post.
One way to discover relevant communities to reach out to is to look at popular content in your field and see who has shared it in the past. You’ll be surprised at how many pages and groups there are with the only purpose of sharing the best content they can find on a particular topic. If you reach out to them with content that their audience will love, you stand a good chance of them sharing it.
Don’t spam, don’t beg for shares, let the quality (and usefulness and relevancy) of content speak for itself. Take a look at things you need in your outreach pitch.
Comment on other posts
I comment on the most recent posts on relevant sites that have good traffic numbers. Commenting on posts is a simple tactic that can be very useful when building a connection to another content creator.
Proper commenting etiquette is all about respect. When you’re on someone’s site, you’re on their “property.” Just as you would treat someone’s home with respect in life, you should treat someone’s site with respect in the virtual world when you leave a comment.
Find sites related to your content using Google or social media. Subscribe, follow them and explore their content. Show up regularly. Feedback on their content. Contribute with your opinion. Don’t just comment for the sake of it. Most comment areas list their comments from first to last. You must comment on the post soon after it has been published.
If you do that you will expose your comment to thousands of people who are going to read the post. The earlier you are, the more people will see your comment.
Edit your old posts to include links to your new content
I try to link to my new post where it’s relevant in the popular posts from my archives. In that way, I try and lead some of my visitors to explore more of my newer content too. This internal linking also helps with your SEO.
Share the post on your own social media channels
Most content creators focus on this part when doing they marketing. They share their posts on their own channel and believe that their work is done. Out of all the different ideas in this post, sharing to your own channel probably is the least effective one.
Most own channels have very low organic reach, very little engagement and almost no clicks. You can still do it, but it’s definitely not the answer to driving traffic to your content. Do use a tool such as Buffer that allows you to post to multiple profiles at the same time.
- Tweet out the post
I tweet out the headline and the link to my Twitter followers to make them aware of the new post. Many times I also include an image as that seems to get more attention. See more on my Twitter strategy and how you can get more followers.
- Post it on your Facebook page
Launch a Facebook page and work on building an audience. Then share your posts on your Facebook page. I find that displaying the image on my Facebook page instead of the link thumbnail works best in terms of reaching and engaging the highest number of people.
- Post it on LinkedIn
I publish the link to the post on my LinkedIn profile.
- Post it on your Google+ profile
I also publish the link to the post on my Google+ profile.
- Post the picture on Instagram
Instagram is a bit different as you don’t have an option to add a link, but it is still an interesting platform. People on Instagram can be more engaging than on other platforms and you can catch their attention by using some stunning imagery and lead them to type in and visit your site manually. See more on Instagram marketing here.
Take advantage of the paid advertising (if you have a budget)
All traffic has a price really. None of it is truly free. Driving traffic to your content can cost you time, money or both. As time is a limited source, paid marketing can help you scale and get there faster.
It’s increasingly difficult to get reach and clicks on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Investing a bit of money in strategically important platforms and posts can give you a great boost and get your content in front of a larger audience.
The majority of platforms mentioned in this post also accept paid advertising in order for you to boost your content to a larger audience. Finding the right channel for you and getting a bit of marketing budget can work wonders for you.
Overcome the stigma of self-promotion and spend 50+% of your time marketing
You need to overcome the stigma of self-promotion. Selling yourself is a big part of having a successful brand online. If you have the reluctance to promote yourself and you lack social skills, you will be unnoticed.
There are only a limited number of opportunities for all of us to take. Most of us are not very comfortable with self-promotion, not many people enjoy blowing their own trumpets all the time.
If you speak a bit to the different types of creative people, you will realize that most of them are very passionate about the things they create and not so much about actually selling themselves and selling their art. It feels like “selling out”, it feels obnoxious, it feels cheap, distasteful and it feels like selling your soul. It’s not what they are interested in.
They would rather be spending on something more interesting and more creative. You want to get on with the next story, with the following post and the new design project.
But marketing and selling are everywhere around us. You sell yourself by the way you dress or speak. You sell your point of view and what you believe in when you talk to your friends. Selling is a part of life and we are all selling. You need to make it a habit of spending at least 50% of your time promoting your content.
There you have it. All the easy and practical advice that you can follow to attract people to your website. Taking these actions (and putting in the time and effort over a longer time) will put you on the road towards getting 500 or even more loyal visitors.