Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ways to Drive Free Traffic

Selling on the internet is all about getting hits. I know it sounds like something involving drugs and alleys, but hits just means traffic, which means the amount of people looking at your site. The more exposure, the more likely someone will buy something, so hits are a vital part of owning an online shop! I thought I'd share where most of OmgLia's hits come from. Now I personally haven't done much in the way of paid advertising - which I imagine would be FAR more rewarding - but I'm offering my advice for getting FREE hits specifically because those benefit everyone!
Traffic Buttons by Buttered Parsnips
First, how do I know where I get my hits, you ask? I use 3 traffic trackers to get a well-rounded idea of my traffic and referall sites:
1. Project Wonderful, which tracks referrers, unique users and pageviews on every page where its ad boxes are displayed
2. Site Meter, an excellent free counter that also tracks referrals
3. Google Analytics which tracks very efficiently but is difficult to place on every page of a domain - much more effective for a blogspot blog or etsy shop.

Now onto the sites. In order of most referalls to least, here are the places that OmgLia gets it's hits:Traffic Light Decal by Elephannie

1. LiveJournal Communities is a HUGE place for hits. It's a very targeted blogging site that mostly caters to the under-25 crowd, and happens to have a wonderful community for selling in particular. There are livejournal selling journals, selling communities, and advertising communities. Each community has around 500+ members looking at any given day, and although there are often many posts per day (think the Promotions section of the Etsy forums) one well-designed advertisement posted to about 30 communities (again, at 500+ members each) usually gets me TONS of hits when I take the time to mass-post. This is a VERY time-consuming but VERY rewarding way to get hits. First you have to find and join the communities, then you have to make your banner ad, then you have to copy and paste it 30 TIMES. But my traffic skyrockets every time I do this which definetly makes it worth it to me! Feel free to add me on LJ and join the communities I'm already in!

2. Topsites Listings and Directories. If you've never seen a topsites listing, go and run a search for "topsites [use a keyword from your site here]. A topsites list is a big list of sites with banner ads that you can add your site to for free. Here is one example. Its order is ranked by the amount of "votes" you get, or people clicking from the topsites link on your site to visit the topsites list. There are top sites for everything and the more you join, the more traffic you'll get from them. Just make sure you have a place to link back to the site from - like a myspace or a blog - so that you can keep your link on the front page! Directories are similiar to topsites listings, except without the whole voting/rank thing (which I personally find is useful if you have enough traffic to generate a lot of votes, because then you stay on the front page.) Some good free directories I use are The Handmade Product Directory and Indie Collective.


Photograph by Mcclainphotography

3. Google Search and Google Image Search, as well as other misc. search engines. I know, big DUH there. But why is it that I'm getting so many targetted google hits for specific items (like, "cute funky jewelry" or "handmade wallets" - things that are definetly on my site)? Google ranks the results of its queries based on a few different items: one is the amount of links back to the site that exist on the web (see above 2 ideas to raise that number significantly), and the other is keywords and tags. Etsy users already know how to use tags properly, but if you have your own site or blog, it can be trickier. First make sure your TITLE is descriptive enough to pop up as relevant to Google and relevant to the person searching: if you sell knit scarves and your blog is called "Katie's World," for example, then you might get far less hits than if your blog was called "Katie's World: Knitted Scarves and Other Crafts" or something more descriptive and specific. You'll notice that my blog title is "colorful plastic jewelry". Secondly, make sure that you use keywords and tags in the BODY of your posts. If you have a domain, make a little opening statement that has a few key words (for an example, see http://omglia.com and read the opening paragraph). If you blog, make sure you're using descriptive terms that will show up as relevant to google. And use lots of images. I get tons of hits because I once posted an entry about making jewelry displays, and included pictures, and that image links back right to this blog.

4. Links from other sites. This refers to link exchanges, links on blogrolls, anywhere someone posted a link back to omglia from their personal site. A lot of the time these are voluntary links that I had nothing to do with, but there are 2 ways to get more links to your site up on other people's sites:

a) Link Exchanging. you post their link, they post yours, everybody wins. With Etsy, this can be great for other shops because the only link that works on an Etsy announcement or profile is another Etsy shop, so consider offering a section called "Shops I Love" and putting link exchanges there. Approach blogs and other domains that you think might mutually benefit from an exchange - more often than not, they're looking for ways to get more links out there too (Remember, more linkbacks = more google results!).

b) Make it easy to link back to your site. I have a Link Back page with all of my advertisement banners plus a simple copy-paste HTML code for immediate postage to a myspace, blog, etc. If people like my site, they can share it with friends without having to do anything but copy and paste. For blogs, this might mean an "add to your blogroll" or "share with friends" link somewhere to a site like Google Reader or Digg. The easier it is, the more likely people will use it.


Panda Crossing Sign by minitrafficsignsmini

5. StumbleUpon I think many Etsy users have already discovered the joys of StumbleUpon, but I'll reiterate. Stumble EVERY new item you post, EVERY blog you write, EVERYTHING. And USE KEYWORDS/TAGS like your traffic depends on it! (Newsflash: It does!)

6. Forums and Message Boards. This includes Etsy forums, Crafster, Diyscene, even your World of Warcraft message board or your Motherhood forum. My random MB that gets me hits is HoboWars -- shameful, but effective! Make sure EVERY signature contains a link to your site, and if possible use a universal username or avatar for brand recognition and familiarity (mine, predictably, is omglia.).

7. Misc: Myspace, Flickr, LinkReferral, etc. These are the ones that everyone has heard of that always get tossed around as good places to get hits. I know I've left of several that you can probably list from the top of your head (Twitter, Facebook, etc etc). I don't get a bulk amount of traffic from any one of them in particular, but combined they are definitely invalueable. Have as many profiles in as many places as you can, and if you happen to maintain them, even better (I'm kind of a fan of leaving my link and moving on, personally). Remember, the amount of time spent on customizing and editing your profile (and then keeping it updated) will result in a greater amount of traffic. The more you put in, the more you get out of it, as is true with most things. You can use a URL shortener like Bit.Ly to track the number of clicks you receive on any specific link.


So there you have it. Remember, I excluded paid advertising! That's another HUGE way to get hits. ProjectWonderful is a good way to dip your toes into paid advertising, but if you're looking for places to advertise the best place is to search for keywords relevant to your site and then from those results, find as many blogs or domains offering advertising as possible. Also, if you need banner advertisements (which I find vital in attracting my target market, personally) I sell them at very reasonable prices. *Wink*

One last thing. If you have the abilities to keep track of where your hits are coming from, CONCENTRATE your efforts on the places that seem successful! For me, that's Livejournal - those mass advertisement posts take hours, but they're so worth it! If you start to see a lot of hits coming from topsites or message boards, find more of those and join them! Whatever you're doing right, keep doing it! Good luck! And please feel free to comment with some suggestions of your own!

16 comments:

byrobinlynne said...

Regarding the Livejournal thing - I get lots of hits from the communities, too and I post from "Semagic" which makes things SO much easier :) (for those who don't know about Semagic and use LJ: http://www.livejournal.com/download/)

Great post! :)

-Robin Lynne
www.robinlynne.org

Ronalyn said...

Excellent post. Thanks for the great ideas.

Christie Cottage said...

Excellant reading and very informative.

I obviuosly don't know enough about blogs. That me be my October goal, to set one up.

I found your link on etsy. That's where you'll find me too
christiecottage.etsy.com

Grace said...

Thanks for the tips!

Gallery Juana said...

Thanks for this information. I might just have to try myspace.

carmel said...

Thanks for the tips-going to give them a try right now!

Julie Ayotte said...

Thanks for the great tips!

Tizzalicious said...

Great tips! Thank you!

I use Semagic for LJ, it makes it so much easier indeed!

Genesis said...

Excellent Post! Thank you for the great tips. I'm going to apply a few of them right away.

Best Regards,

~Genesis.

Free Business and Traffic Resources

Opulent Oddities said...

Great tips. Maybe I should return to LJ.

Alex Whatton said...

Wonderful - thank you for your words of wisdom!

~ Alex
www.MarthaHaskins.etsy.com

oliviaharis said...

Thanks so much for this info. My blog is just over a week old and I need some tips like this. I also was completely confused when I got my first trackback spam as I had no idea was trackbacking was. But now that I know, I’ll be looking for ways to use it constructively. Thanks again
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oliviaharis
social bookmark

That Winsome Girl said...

Very informative and helpful!

Five O'Clock Somewhere said...

Great information, thanks for sharing! I just joined LiveJournal and added you as a friend :-).

Homemade Zen said...

wow a lot of ideas! I just started blogging and is always looking for some ideas, thanks!

yoursandi said...

Thanks for the info! I need to practice more of your tips.