WebRef Update: Featured Article: Traffic Boosters
By now you've read the pumped up platitudes of part-time designers turned marketers on increasing your Web site's traffic. Things like optimal keywords, guaranteed gateways, and other search engine hocus pocus. For first generation search portals these can certainly help, but a new breed of Web portal less easily swayed is upon us. In this article I'll share what's actually worked to increase WebRef's traffic over the years.
There are two main ways to increase your site's traffic, get more eyeballs (read unique visitors) and make 'em stay longer (read stickiness). We'll address both here. First, increasing your user base.
Make your site worth promoting
Before you splurge on that big PR blitz, make sure you've got something worth shouting about. I've seen far too many under construction signs on recently promoted sites, not the ideal first impression to convey. You need to offer your users a value proposition, fresh content, free services and software, utility, giveaways etc. to draw users in and keep them coming back. Make your site easy to navigate, and *fast.*
Frequently changing relevant content is essential for high traffic. The source doesn't matter as much as the frequency. Sites like Slashdot have proved that update frequency means more traffic.
Features like weblogs (slashdot.org, flashkit.com) and add-a- comment (photo.net) where users can post stories/comments gives your site multiple voices, and makes the discussion part of the content itself. Users feel a sense of ownership when they can post their own ideas, and they'll come back for more to see the latest thread as the content is always changing. At one time we had a BBS (UBB) on WebRef and we noticed a 20-30% increase in traffic (as slashdot's Rob Malda also experienced).
We've found our newsletters drive traffic back to our site very effectively, with 20-30% boosts on subsequent days. (this depends on your subscriber base of course) Having compelling content and tight copy helps, and boosting your subscriber rate is a must. See my previous article on increasing newsletter subscribership at:
HTML newsletters have twice the clickthru rate on links than text newsletters, according to _Poor Richard's Internet Marketing and Promotions_, so start a daily HTML newsletter to supplement your weekly text version. We send our front page out every weekday using a free script, available below.
Listen to your users and give them what they want, be customer oriented.
This one's tougher, and a long-term effort, but essential for maximizing your traffic. Older sites generally have more backlinks (links pointing back to your site) but you can speed the weaving process by giving users a reason to visit with compelling content, useful services, free stuff and make your site so useful that bookmarking it is a no brainer. You can check your site's backlinks at, you guessed it:
Maximize Popular Backlinks
Portals can drive a lot of traffic your way. I think the estimates of 80-90% of all traffic driven to Web sites is from search engines is overblown, but they are important (our logs tell us so). Lately, massaging your keywords has become less effective as a new breed of popularity-based search engine is emerging.
Sites like Google (and its Pageranked directory), Direct Hit, and Raging search rank sites by popularity (backlinks in Google's case) effectively eliminating keyword spamming techniques and rewarding sites with the most popular backlinks.
In effect, Google's Pagerank algorithm uses the Web's webmasters as a giant voting machine. We all vote with our external links. The "best" sites all bubble up to the top (assuming popularity equals quality). Increasing your pagerank is difficult but a doable thing. Longevity and tireless PR, viral backlinking, and prime memorable domain names all contribute to accelerate your site's weaving into the Web.
The popularity of pages that link to your site (backlinks) is also important. So try and spend time acquiring a few key high traffic links, rather than lots of lower traffic links. If you run multiple sites, link to each other on high traffic pages to raise your ranking in Google.
Revised: Oct 13, 2000