Traffic Sources: From Blogs To Forums And How To Improve Your ROI

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In the not so distant past, one traffic source championed all the rest. It was the most visited site on the web and “the number one referral traffic source that helped websites get visitors.” I’m referring, of course, to Google.

Since then, however, a new media age has dawned, serving up an array of fresh ways for people to interact online and attract visitors to their websites. And while Google can and does still deliver high quality traffic results, you shouldn’t rely exclusively on any single traffic source.
Neil PatelNeil Patel: “Diversifying your website traffic sources will ensure that your business does not tank in the wake of a single Google algorithmic update.

Consider Andrew, who lost 80% of his website traffic to Trollingmotors.net with the release of the Penguin update.

It was after this loss of traffic that he realized the risk of relying solely on Google for customers.

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Don’t you dread being in a similar situation?”

If you want to create a sustainable flow of high quality, targeted traffic to your site, you should check out and experiment with some of the other traffic sources you have at your disposal. Below, you’ll learn about thirteen of those options along with how you can increase your ROI for each source.

Improve Your Conversion Rates From Common Traffic Sources

There are lots of traffic sources that you can try. But will they all provide you with targeted leads who convert?

Definitely not.

When it comes to traffic, it’s the quality that matters, not the quantity. And getting traffic that converts takes work. Your visitors aren’t going to embrace your offer with open arms simply because you said they should after clicking your link.

So what are the most common traffic sources and how can you optimize them to attract relevant, interested visitors?

Organic Keywords

Do your keyword homework and use the Google Search Console, formerly known as Webmaster Tools, to identify which keywords drive the most organic search traffic to your website. Then, try to rank for other similar phrases that are more closely related to your offer. These types of phrases are known as long-tail keywords.

lexie carboneLexie Carbone of SmartBug Media“Short, key-phases such as ‘marketing agency’ have become too broad and competitive as the market grows. Instead, you should focus on long-tail key phrases that are tailored to your product or service.

For example, you could try something more specific such as ‘marketing agency in Seattle Washington’ or ‘inbound marketing agency in Los Angeles.’ Studies show long-tail key phrases are driving results due to greater relevancy and less competition.”

Blogging

“The best kind of marketing is inbound marketing. Content marketing works—if you do it well,” says Peep Laja of ConversionXL.

If your website doesn’t already have a blog, then you should seriously consider starting one. When done right, your blog can act like a member of your sales team, pulling in targeted traffic and converting leads into paying customers.

And as a member of your sales team, your blog should prove that your company is competent and knowledgeable about the happenings of your industry. It should impart a sense of confidence in your readers that your company is reliable and trustworthy. And it should help build relationships with your readers to keep them coming back for more.

Check out the blueprint Peep Laja lays out to consistently create high quality blog posts.

Peep Laja 1Peep Laja: “Here’s the formula in steps:

  1. Have high standards for the quality and thoroughness of your posts.
  2. Focus on engagement and keeping up with your content.
  3. Be really good at what you do. Aim to become the best.
  4. Don’t force sales, but make your products / services easy to find when they’re ready.”

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is a straightforward technique to attract new visitors to your blog or website, spread your expertise and establish yourself as an authority in your niche, and market your company organically.

When considering which sites you want to guest blog for, ask yourself what sites do your prospects visit when they look for advice or compelling content?

These are the sites you should pursue for your guest blogging. And when you guest post on sites that are relevant and authoritative, your chances of converting the visitors you attract into paying customers are higher—”much higher than from paid banner ads or other ‘outbound’ marketing tactics,” says Felix Tarcomnicu.
Ott Niggulis weighs in below with the traffic results ConversionXL has achieved from guest blogging.

ott niggulisOtt Niggulis: “Peep [Laja, Founder of ConversionXL,] has written guest posts for Think Traffic and Smashing Magazine, and the traffic coming from those posts converts extremely well. Makes sense—the audience has a definite overlap. He also wrote a post for Kissmetrics blog that doesn’t send much traffic and it doesn’t convert either. Does that mean Kissmetrics sucks as a traffic source for ConversionXL? I wouldn’t say so.

The blog post was about gamification—which is not something most Kissmetrics readers are really interested in (hence the lack of clickthroughs) and it’s not what ConversionXL is about either (=low conversions).

So again—it’s all about relevancy.”

Social Media

A Nielsen social media report found that Americans engage with social media three times as often as they do with email: “7.6% of online time is spent reading e-mail and 23% on social.” But what’s even more compelling is that “more than 70% of social networks users shop online. That’s ~12% more than the average person,” recounts Ott Niggulis. Therefore, social media can be a highly valuable source of traffic in terms of increasing conversions. But you have to do it right.

Garrett Moon of CoSchedule shares the following suggestions for how to effectively increase your social media traffic:

“1. Take your followers into consideration. Your social feed is for them, not for you.

2. Don’t turn into a spammer. Create a smart schedule rather than a crowded one.
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3. Consider your own habits. How do you use social media? Where is the “spam line” for you? Don’t cross it.

4. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t like. How would you react if you saw another user with your identical strategy? This is a great gauge, because you probably wouldn’t be the only one who would feel that way.

5. Always provide value. Like I said, promoting content more than once actually is a good thing, as long as you are doing it to provide value for your audience…Never share the same message twice…The better strategy is to add some simple variety by asking questions or including pull-quotes from the post itself.”

As an addendum to number five, whereas Moon recommends promoting the same content more than once, that’s not to say that you should share the exact same message. Instead, mix it up “by asking questions or including pull-quotes from the post itself,” Moon suggests. You could also cite important facts or add intrigue.

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Social media is a horse of a different color when it comes to direct sales, however. “People don’t go to Facebook and Twitter to buy stuff, they simply don’t. They go there to chat with friends, discover new and interesting content, watch photos etc.,” states Niggulis.

Therefore, you have to use a different approach in order to convert your social media traffic into high value customers. So lose the “selling mindset” and focus instead on gaining your audience’s attention by establishing trust and cultivating brand recognition.

ott niggulis 2Ott Niggulis“Promote good relevant content, run contests, create an identity in your industry first.

Once people recognize that you don’t just blast your company’s PR all over the place, but share stuff they like (give good advice, relevant info, etc.) and find useful, they will follow and like your activities.”

Here are four tips to increase your conversion rates from social media traffic:

  1. Make sure your social media messages match what’s conveyed on your landing page.
  2. Use social proof, such as testimonials and social media widgets, to demonstrate your successes and the number of people who’ve liked, shared, and tweeted your content.
  3. Include social sharing buttons on your posts.
  4. Strike a balance between posting high quality, relevant content and publicizing deals and promotional campaigns.

Google AdWords

By many measures, Google AdWords is the most popular paid search platform, with Bing Ads in second place. AdWords can be costly, however, if you don’t do it right.

Here are five tips for creating an effective and cost-efficient AdWords campaign:

1. Focus on multiple key metrics 
…including CTR, clicks, conversions, cost-per-conversion, and the average conversion value.

2. Maximize your AdWords relevance 

According to Andrew Lolk of White Shark Media Inc., “CTR (The percentage of people that click your ads, divided by the amount of people who see it) is the key metric that determines whether or not your AdWords ads are relevant.”

3. Send visitors to the most relevant landing page

Peep Laja“When people click on your ads, where will they be taken to? If your home page, you’re losing money.
You need to create a dedicated landing page for your ads. The best landing pages focus on a single call-to-action, have no distracting links or navigation, and sell the one thing people clicked on your ad for. It should repeat the same message you had on your ad.”

4. Stop using broad match 

Broad match is the most commonly used match type in Google AdWords. It’s also the most volatile match type,” says Lolk. “You have very little control over what search terms your ads are appearing for because your keywords may be accompanied by other random queries.” Instead, you should use exact match whenever you can.

5. Don’t forget negative keywords

Including negative keywords in your campaign is an absolute must-do. This is one instance when accentuating only the positive is not in your best interest.

Content Discovery Networks & Native Ads

Brad from Adbeat“Content Discovery Networks (sometimes called ‘Content Recommendation Engines’) are ad networks that place ads in the ‘Around the Web’ and ‘Recommended Stories’ sections commonly found on large publishers and news sites.

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The idea behind them is to serve ads that look like they’re a natural part of the page. Publishers and advertisers love them because they don’t look or feel like advertising.

They work extremely well at driving traffic and sales when they’re paired with the right landing page, which is commonly a ‘native ad’ or an article lander that appears like a new story.”

Brad recommends the following four content discovery networks, as they are the biggest:

  • Outbrain – Outbrain is the largest Content Discovery Network as of this writing. Some of the top advertisers using Outbrain include People.com, Refinery29 and Bills.com
  • Taboola – Outbrain’s #1 competitor. Some of Taboola’s advertisers include Next Advisor, The Motley Fool (case study below) and Ancestry.com.
  • ContentAd – Another large ad network. They claim to serve more than 5 billion content recommendations per month. Some of ContentAd’s top advertisers include HowLifeWorks.com, Answers.com and Instant Checkmate.
  • Yahoo Gemini Native – Relatively new, but increasing in popularity. These ads are shown alongside teasers for actual Yahoo news stories, meaning their appearance is slightly different than the “Recommendations” sections shown from other publishers. Some of their top advertisers include Verizon, LifestyleJournal.com and Lending Tree.”

And The Hands-Down Absolute Best Traffic Source Is…

…wherever your target audience spends their time!

Assuming you already have a solid understanding of who your target audience is and what defines them, where are they hanging out online? Discovering the answer to this question is key when it comes to identifying the traffic sources that are going to deliver the most relevant, interested prospects to your site—aka the ones with the highest potential to convert.

Here is a list of the top places and ways you can find where your target audience hangs out:

Forums

If you’re into something, there’s a forum for it. I guarantee it. No matter what your hobby, interest, behavior, opinion, or fetish may be, there are like-minded people out there looking to connect. Therefore, the odds are good that there’s at least one forum or sub-forum (probably more) dedicated to your particular niche where your target audience is conversing and hanging out.

The best way to find relevant forums is to use FindAForum.net, which has indexed pretty much all of the existing online forums. Search by forum category or by typing your niche or a relevant keyword into the search bar in the top right-hand corner.

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How To Connect With Your Audience

steve brodskySteve Brodsky, Founder of The World Is My Office“The trick is not to do it in a spammy way.

I connect with my target audience using 2 different methods:

I start threads that give a long, thorough, detailed answer to a question that I see continually popping up in the forum.

These are the types of posts that get ‘stickied’ and get an absolute ton of views as well as establish yourself as an authority in the eyes of everyone on the forum.

I join the conversation, answering peoples questions very thoroughly and detailed while sprinkling links (when appropriate!) to not only my blog, but others in my niche as well.

This keeps you from looking spammy by only promoting your blog posts as well helps with blogger outreach (you can tweet/email the blogger you linked too and give them a heads up you did).”

Q&A Sites

The top two Q&A sites are Quora and Yahoo Answers. And similar to interacting on forums, you can connect with your audience and demonstrate your expertise on Quora and Yahoo Answers by providing detailed, thorough responses to people’s questions and including links back to your website.

Moreover, Google loves this type of interaction. The next time you queue a question into Google, you’ll likely notice that one or more of the top search results comes from either Quora or Yahoo Answers.

Quora

When you respond to questions on Quora, you can tag or link to other questions, topics, and Quora users. Plus, you can add images and supporting links. Then, people can up-vote or down-vote your responses depending on how useful and informative they think they are.

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Yahoo Answers

Yahoo Answers operates basically the same way except that only the person who wrote the initial question votes on the response they think is best and that response then gets highlighted as the “featured answer.” So if there’s a question that’s frequently asked by members of your target audience and your response is the one that gets featured, this can generate a lot of targeted traffic to your website.

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Twitter

Find your target audience on Twitter using hashtags or services like Hootsuite, which enables you to monitor Twitter for specific keywords or commonly asked questions pertaining to your niche, thus allowing you to easily find and weigh in on relevant conversations by answering questions directly or by responding with a link to additional information on your site.

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Facebook Groups

With just under 1.6 billion monthly active users (that’s right, billion with a ‘b’) who can be segmented by a variety of demographics, including hobbies and interests, Facebook is one of the best hubs for you to connect with your target audience.

Facebook has tons of groups pertaining to just about every subject where users interact with one another, asking questions and sharing ideas. In the Facebook search bar, just type in “groups about [your niche]” and then start participating in the most relevant discussions.

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LinkedIn Groups

Similar to Facebook groups, LinkedIn also presents opportunities for you to join groups and connect with your target audience. LinkedIn groups can be especially beneficial if your niche concerns anything related to business or career growth because your target audience should definitely be spending some time there.

Just type in your niche or a keyword about your niche into the search bar, click on “groups about [your niche],” and then ask to join.

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Google Alerts

As a final suggestion for how you can find where your target audience spends their time, use Google Alerts to actively search the web for questions or keywords related to your niche or content on your site.

For example, you could set an alert for a question like “How can I improve my conversion rates?” Then, anytime someone asks this question, Google Alerts will notify you by sending the link to your inbox so you can head on over and provide the answer along with a link back to relevant content on your site.

Steve Brodsky“To set it up, head over to Google Alerts and enter a question [or keyword] into the ‘create an alert’ box that you have relevant content for.

After you do this, an ‘alert preview’ will display showing you the type of things Google Alerts has found that have been posted recently with your keyword.

If it looks good, click on ‘show options’ and select how often you would like the alerts to be sent to you (I choose once a day)…Then, enter the email you want the alerts delivered to and click ‘create alert,’ easy as that!”

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Conclusion

The Internet is constantly updating and evolving, and the changes can often be unpredictable. So don’t put all your eggs into any one traffic basket. Experiment with a variety of sources, starting with whichever is most comfortable and convenient for you, and take Justin’s advice.

justin christianson 1Justin Christianson“There are loads of different traffic sources available. Different sources work better for different industries. The important thing is to treat each source as if it were its own company.

As in, you need to have separate pages and flow for different sources. Facebook converts completely differently than say something like AdWords or content networks like Taboola or Outbrain.”

Have you experimented with any traffic sources other than the ones mentioned above? Which sources provide you with the best results and the most growth?

Have something to add?  Be sure to leave us a comment.

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