Back in 2014 my colleague Chuck Price published The 10 Best Ways to Generate Traffic WITHOUT Googlehere at Search Engine Watch.
Much like the world of search and the perpetually updated algorithms of Google, the landscape of non-Google marketing sees techniques, platforms and priorities change over time.
What hasn’t changed is the importance of understanding how to generate traffic without Google. Google is big, but it is not good to concentrate all your efforts into just one referrer.
Recent data (from Shareaholic) sees search engines account for around 40% of website referrals. This compares to around 20% for social media – a smaller but notable chunk of potential traffic. These percentages are always fluctuating. And, of course, there’s more to non-Google traffic than social.
I thought I’d use today’s post to update Chuck’s 10. As you’ll see, some methods are still around, some are absent, and others are more important than they were four years ago.
I also want to throw in a new over-arching theme, by way of a question I believe is more important for content and search marketers now than it has ever been:
Am I participating in the conversation?
In short, you should be. The key to succeeding with the following 10 non-Google traffic sources is by honest participation and engagement, as opposed to spamming and dropping links to your website around the internet. It is a question we’ll return to throughout.
Blogging?! Nothing new here! I hear you say.
Perhaps, but I want to deal with blogs first because for me they are the first step to ‘participating in the conversation.’ And, today, there is more to blogging than simply having a part of your website dedicated to regularly updated posts.
Blog posts on your site are great for non-Google traffic of course. You can publish at will and with more authorial control than you might get from an offsite blog. You can then use that content to entice visitors to come and read your posts via social channels etc.
Blog-writing is not a skill that only serves your own blog, though. Guest blogging is still a good way to further establish authority in your industry and to potentially get visitors of those blogs to click through to your site.
Offsite blog platforms
Offsite blogging platforms such as Medium are ever-improving the ways they promote articles (via email digests and at the foot of article pages) to users depending on the topics they choose to follow. Follow authors related to your niche and participate in the communities that exist there.
Don’t have time to write a full post? You can also ‘participate in the conversation’ by adding to blog comments. Be sure to prioritize adding value to the page over merely leaving a link.
The commenting engine we use on SEW, Disqus, allows commenters to have a weblink visible within their user profile when readers click their username. I’d argue it’s better practice to use this than dropping a URL in the comment itself.
So you have a great piece of content – perhaps a blog post – on your website. Where are you going to share it?
Facebook is still the biggest social referrer online. According to Shareaholic, more than 18% of website referrals were from Facebook in the latter half of 2017. This is a drop from the year before, but the wedge is still huge. There are more than 2.1b monthly active Facebook users globally.
As Chuck notes, useful and fun content is the best type to share on the platform. And the best time to share on Facebook traffic-wise is around 12:00pm according to Revive Social.
Although not as big on the social referral numbers as Facebook, I’ve included YouTube because it is still the second biggest social networking site globally with 1.5b monthly active users.
Like Google, YouTube uses a vast number of factors when deciding how to rank videos. These include keyword relevance in titles and descriptions, number of views, comments, likes, shares, and backlinks.
Going back to our participating in the conversation mantra, our ‘best practice’ aim with any YouTube content needs to focus on ensuring videos are valuable to those interested in your niche – whether from an entertaining or an educational standpoint (or both).
Traffic-wise, it is expected for users to be able to click-through to additional relevant information via links in the description under YouTube videos. And it can be a great referrer.
I’m highlighting Instagram because in recent years it has risen to become the third most popular social channel (800m monthly active users) and it is still growing significantly as a referrer (up 890% between 2016 and 2017 according to Shareaholic).
Of course, Instagram really lends itself best to brands with the potential to produce strong visual content.
There is a heap of truth in the cliché that the platform is awash with pictures of food. It is an ideal place for chefs and restaurants to show-off their skills, use hashtags to align their posts with similar images, and to persuade viewers to click through to their website to find full recipes or directions to their establishment.
It works for other brands too. And is a great platform for inviting your audience to participate.
Pinterest, like Instagram, is highly visual.
Again, for certain niches it can drive a lot of traffic. Shareaholic actually ranks it as the second best social referrer with 7.53% share in the second half of 2017.
A majority of people who come to Pinterest are looking for shopping ideas – including for fashion, events and holidays. So it is a great platform for ecommerce sites in particular. You can even incorporate buy buttons directly into pins.
From a traffic perspective it is clearly working too. Brands can embed URLs at the top of their profile page. Participation is also fundamental to the mechanics of the site, with users re-pinning each other’s pins to their own curated boards.
Twitter still holds its own as a leading social network and a key referrer of traffic.
It remains a great place to follow and converse with others who occupy your niche. If the tweets you send are a valuable mix of insight, retweets, links to other relevant content and occasional links to your own site – then you should find yourself able to generate good traffic when you do the latter.
But, again, valuable participation is key. Users will not follow you if your timeline is simply a stream of URLs to your site. Add to the conversations that occur there. And be sparing with self-promotion.
Reddit continues to be a great place to interact with relevant communities related to many sectors.
How accepting the site is to redditors’ own links depends on the relative rules of each community and their moderators – with some being fairly open to it, others accepting a percentage of posted content to link out, and others not allowing it at all.
I’d argue that the best subreddits are those that are more strict about not letting users flagrantly post links. I prefer the conversational/forum elements over the bookmarking aspect.
New users need to devote time to adding to these communities and learning how they operate before even considering posting links back to your own site. But traffic can certainly be obtained from Reddit, particularly if the content you produce appeals to the unique wants of its users.
Like Reddit, forums are also great places to share your knowledge and to participate in the conversation.
And like Reddit, you need to spend some time engaging with other users and learning about the protocol for linking out to relevant content before tentatively offering links to your own site.
That said, forums can be great for gaining traffic. Fundamentally, users are not visiting such sites to be sold and marketed to – but many conversations do occur around looking for more information on products, services and answering questions. Does the content on your site offer such information?
Of course, questions and queries posted by web users can be a good opportunity for you to participate in the conversation and to offer up your expertise.
Users aren’t just asking questions on Google and Facebook. Specialist Q & A sites such as Quora see users ask hundreds of questions and the community offer even more answers.
See if your niche is being discussed, set up a profile page with a link to your site, and if you start answering these big questions knowledgeably and honestly, you might see users wanting to click through to know more about what you do.
Again, participation should be the priority. Authority and visibility in your niche is a great win, and any traffic is a bonus.
Email remains a significant traffic source and is continually improving as a way to let your most engaged customers know about products, services, and new content that is increasingly tailored to them.
It differs from some of the other methods already mentioned because if users are already signed up to your mailing list, it is likely they are more engaged with your product or brand – especially compared to, for example, someone you might be chatting to in a forum or on Twitter.
Of course, you still need to offer value – and it’s best practice to do so at the outset of your message to not waste their time before enticing them to click through to your freshest and most relevant content.
And this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be…
Participating in the conversation
All the methods I’ve listed are great opportunities to share value with the online ecosystem. It is very likely that your business has a niche of followers online chatting and seeking information across a range of platforms.
It is also very likely that you may have some unique perspective or insight about that industry which others will find of value.
Participating in the conversation is good practice for ranking in Google, as well as driving traffic from other sources. And the more diverse the platforms you use, the more visibility you have across the board.