When it comes to the art of acquiring online traffic, people often start with the traffic sources that have the biggest potential. This is usually Facebook, Google or some other massive social network.
But getting online traffic is only the half of it. Business owners want to get those newly acquired visitors to buy what they're selling.
It has been my experience that the best traffic sources aren't usually the biggest or most popular. I'll outline some unlikely sources of traffic for your website, and show you how to determine which sources may work for you.
Understanding Online Traffic Sources
No two traffic sources behave the same. Every source of online traffic is different and has different user demographics. They each have their own quirks, content formats, rules and behaviors.
We can make some very basic assumptions for each traffic source. For example, image-heavy sites like Instagram and Pinterest aren't likely suited for news and dense business information. LinkedIn is likely going to resonate well with content about business, as it's a social network built for connecting business contacts.
Taking each traffic source that you come across and figuring out a) who uses it and b) how it's used can help you decide where to put your marketing resources.
If you have a lifestyle brand, for example, marketing on Pinterest might be a more natural fit than LinkedIn, merely based on how each network behaves.
Untapped Online Traffic Sources That Can Help Conversions
So far I've only talked about traffic sources that every other business is marketing to right now. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it's my experience that oftentimes the best sources of traffic are the less-common ones, as they tend to convert better.
After all, what is traffic on your website if it's not converting and making sales? Do you really care if you manage to bring in an extra spike in web traffic if it doesn't help the bottom line? Instead of chasing raw, unfocused traffic that doesn't convert, consider focusing on sources that improve the bottom line.
I have an interesting case study as an example. When my business launched, we had two different traffic sources feature us on the same day. One was a very large online news source about startups. The other was a much smaller lifestyle website. The lifestyle website ended up sending us significantly more leads, despite it being much smaller .
Why did the smaller niche site convert better? Because it more closely aligned with the theme and demographic of our website. It was a natural fit.
Finding and Utilizing Unlikely Sources
When it comes to finding the best online traffic sources, it's all about the fit of your brand to the source. When I go about finding potential organic traffic sources, I usually discard all of the big players like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. They're wide-open platforms that allow for smaller niches, but at their core they're meant to be unfocused.
I like to look for websites that compliment my brand. These could be blogs, news sites, forums or any other type of site that could provide a fair amount of exposure. I use tools like SimilarWeb and Quantcast to estimate the actual traffic they could drive to my website. Even if a website has 20 daily visitors but sends you two referrals each day, I think it's worth it to pay attention to them.
For example, let's say I was a pocket knife manufacturer. There are a handful of niches that I could create relationships with to help promote my product:
- everyday carry gear (dedicated to items you carry on your person)
- sporting goods
With a bit of work you can start to unearth smaller sites that provide reviews and news updates around these niches. For example, Uncrate and Gear Patrol review and link to products for millennial-aged men.
The goal is to find sites who benefit from talking about your brand or product. The internet is full of niches; it's just a matter of finding them. I've found that the sites that are most receptive to relationships are the ones who need products like yours to write about.
Smaller websites that are intensely focused are great unlikely traffic sources. They may not have massive traffic numbers, but that traffic they do have could be receptive to your type of brand. Instead of chasing the big news story or viral post on Facebook, it might be better to look for smaller, more closely-aligned websites to generate online traffic.
The Data Hidden in Your Analytics
If you have an analytics service like Google Analytics installed, there's an easy way to figure out what sources already send you traffic that converts as well.
If you're wanting to collect data on leads (email signups, etc.), create a goal and start tracking conversions across all of your traffic. If you're wanting to track sales data, Google Analytics provides e-commerce tracking that allows you to track detailed sales data and information.
Once you've started tracking goals, e-commerce data or both, you'll start to get data on what sources of traffic are sending you the most leads and sales. These are the sources that you can start pursuing to make the most of your marketing. A great part about this data is that it tracks every referrer.
You might find that a link from a tiny blog might send you more sales or leads than Facebook. You might find that Pinterest is actually a huge driver in sales. Armed with this valuable information, you can start to create a marketing plan.
Mining Traffic Sources
Now that you know what sources of traffic convert, you can ramp up your efforts to grow your referral traffic from these sources.
Let's say you find that Pinterest is a massive driver of online sales. Consider using Pinterest advertising to help scale your exposure on the network.
Maybe you found that a blog has sent you a significant amount of traffic from a mention in one of their posts. You could try offering them a guest post to publish or some other form of collaboration, like a product giveaway or contest. If neither of these is an option, you might be able to purchase a mention in their newsletter or some form of website advertising.
Lastly, if they use an ad network like Google Adsense, Outbrain or Taboola, you'll be able to purchase advertising for that website.
Personally I'd rather purchase site advertising as a last resort and use written content that lives forever like a guest post or a review on the website instead. Giveaways and reviews are useful too, and you're most likely only paying for what it costs to build the product and the shipping.
Another thing to consider is that with the above content types, someone other than you is talking about your brand. This can help establish trust and credibility. You can talk until you're blue in the face about how great your product is, but an honest review from a respected insider from the industry can be priceless.
You may want to make it your goal to find a way to get your brand on those websites that have already proven that they can send high-converting traffic to your business. By doing this, you can help take some of the risk out of spending precious resources on your marketing.
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