On Jan. 1, 2011 my brand new business—PassivePanda.com—had received exactly zero visitors.
Eleven months later, the website has received over 350,000 unique visitors and almost 750,000 page views. Even better, we have built an e-mail list of over 10,000 people and gained hundreds of customers. I still have a lot to learn, but it's safe to say that things are going well.
What's the primary difference between my business on Jan. 1, 2011 and Jan. 1, 2012?
1. Start a newsletter list
Without a doubt, the number one thing you can do to increase traffic is to start a newsletter list. Here's why.
An e-mail list is the best way to build recurring traffic. By sending out e-mails to your newsletter list about upcoming events, new products and promotions, or even new articles on your blog, you can guarantee that visitors will continue to return to your site instead of hoping that people will show up when you have something important to say.
2. Get the word out with guest posts
Guest posting is a simple strategy where you create content such as an article, an audio session, or a video lesson for another website. Why would you do this? Because it can drive traffic back to your site.
It doesn't matter what you're trying to sell with your business, there are websites and blogs that cater to those people already. Your future customers are hanging out somewhere online. It's your job to get in front of them and share what you know.
Typically, at the end of your guest post, there will be a spot where you can link to your website. If you guest post for high-profile sites, then you should have no problem driving traffic back to your website.
3. Brand yourself as an expert through interviews
In addition to sharing your knowledge through guest posts, you can also share your brand or story through interviews.
There are many sites looking to do product reviews, talk with entrepreneurs or interview people on recent events in the industry. Reach out to these people. Tell them your story and mention that you're available for an interview if they are looking.
Free promotion like this can help drive all sorts of people to your site—and save you money on marketing and advertising.
4. Use social media strategically
Social media can be a decent traffic driver—if you do the opposite of what most people do.
If you have a decent social media presence for your company, then you can try to drive traffic through your audience. In most cases, however, you'll be better served by connecting with a social media influencer and sharing your information with them.
There are many news sites, media outlets and individuals that have access to hundreds of thousands of people through their social media pages. Reach out to them, say hello and share your content in a friendly way. If you build a solid relationship, these people can become large drivers of traffic to your business.
5. Use the power of search
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a powerful tool.
If you can rank #1 in Google for a popular phrase, then the big G will send all sorts of visitors your way. SEO is far too broad of a topic to cover here, but you can learn a lot about SEO on OPEN Forum. And for an in depth look at the fundamentals, be sure to read the tutorial created by the SEO experts at Yoast.
At the very least, I recommend doing some minimal keyword research and using the proper tags and headings. If you do only those three things, then you'll see some benefit without too much effort.
And the #1 thing you need to do...
Actually try all the suggestions above.
The only thing that separated my site from many others was that I actually implemented the five steps I mentioned here. Everyone else talks about this stuff, but few people actually do it. Don't make the mistake of knowing what to, but failing to execute on it.