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Mostly Viral Top Traffic Alternatives to Search Engines

 7:05 am on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

The Mostly Viral Top Traffic Alternatives to Search Engines List
by Brett Tabke

As the search engine referrals continue to fall for most on the web, we are in a scramble to find alternatives. That scramble has become a panic for some that have traditionally relied on the now fading search engines for traffic and repeat traffic.

The following is a collection of ideas that are mostly viral in nature for acquiring new traffic and maximizing your existing traffic.

Recip Link Exchange
Both traditional and non-traditional link exchanges can work wonders. The biggest change has been the coming of "strategic alliances".

You sell forks, and the guy down the street sells spoons - there ya go. It pays to go out and find similar sites that sell complementary products to yours.

Directories: Both large and Topical
We all know about the Open Directory Project, The 'hoo, and Looksmart. Are you taking time to play the smaller directories? Although most smaller directories have taken some serious body shots from search engines because they are viewed as competition, most of the older ones have weathered the storm.

Take time to investigate the directory thoroughly as there are some real scams out there that are nothing more than loss leaders for megaspam. Stay far away from FFA's, Top 100 sites, "awards managers", and other "scam of the day" sites.

Press releases
Although a bit pricey for most sites, a good BizWire targeted press release can generate good prequalified traffic. It's important traffic to analyze prior to sending out a release, because you need to speak to that audience.

Can certainly be repeat traffic generators and good lost leaders.

Awards Pages
It's old, it's tired, it's dumb - sad to say, it still works. You know the drill.

Guest Books
Use 'em properly. View the site, say something nice, include your url if offered.

Launching an Affiliate Program
Got an affiliate program or affiliate program like gimmick? It's amazing how fast you can get your url onto a few hundred websites via an affiliate program.

Similar in nature to E-A-Friend. You me and everyone else here think they are a has been dumb idea anymore. It's strange that they still work - but they do. Everything someone sends one, you url goes out with it.

You know 'em you love 'em. 'nuff said, but I included them for completeness.

Article submission
Submitting articles around the web to places that accept open article submission, is a great way "name brand" yourself. Letting other sites reprint your content has it's obvious rewards in link backs and name branding. Make sure to get the rules of distribution up front.

Check this out: I just looked up various viral promotion kw's in a search engine. In the top 100 results there was one article listed eight times from eight different domains that the guy had shared the article with! He viral marketed his viral marketing story - that's cool! He gets 8 links, and probably dozens of times the exposure. Viral is cool.

Check this out 2: Egads, they are paying $16.50 a click for data recovery on Overture! (think about it). How much are clicks to your site worth? Are they worth giving away some articles?

Mailing lists
Careful contributions to daily email lists can be excellent traffic generators. Check out the email list and see if it has a web archive. Not only contribute to the email list to get your signature file noticed by the list readers, but also to get your url onto that web archive for search engines to see.

Pete and RePeat.
How many times has a friend forwarded you the "joke of the day"? Ever found a "virus alert" from a friend? How about a simple, "check this out dude"? Viral email - think about it. There's traffic there for the right hot thing of the day. Remember the hamsters?

Don't forget the kids!
q: Why did the computer squeak?
a: Because somebody stepped on the mouse!

Kids are awesome at viral marketing. They are a little unseen army of traffic generators out there. They don't swap sack lunches anymore, they swap email and urls beamed from their Palm PDA's!

Usenet, Forums
Used properly, usenet and forums can be good traffic producers. Always check the TOS [webmasterworld.com] of sites to see what is acceptable and what is not [webmasterworld.com]. There is little that is more powerful that a good old profile referral [webmasterworld.com].

Hey, pass it on would ya! In the classic free email style of promotion. Email-a-Friend scripts are widely available and some are quite good. In fact, if you look at the bottom of this thread, you'll see one in action. Hey, pass it on! ;)

E-A-Friend Specials
Give a discount for your regular visitors that refer a friend. Tell 'em joe sent you.

The Big Giveaway!
Who doesn't love a good web freebie? We know they come with strings attached. The beauty of a product give away is that they are your product - hence, your strings! Email signups, newsletter subscription - whoa, it's a builtin long term client base. Be sure to get optin permission for any mailings. (it's your strings, your product. Use em!)

Conferences and Trade Shows
Do you do b2b? Ever been to a trade show in your industry? If not, why not? Go to one, you'll go to them all. The contacts and promotion can be killer. Be sure to take some freebies to give away for their goodie bags!

Got something to say that isn't quite appropriate for your site? Not pc to a general audience? Then start a blog! Carefully used blogs can drive a good deal of traffic and bring in prequalifed customers. Example: Scalizi.com [scalzi.com] daily column (similar to a true blog, but not quite). He's a writer that does a blog to both get it off his chest and show off his writing skills too -- win-win. Prequalified traffic at minimal expense.

Traditional offliners

Small ads in the local paper. Some papers filter out domain names, but others allow them inline with other ads. These can be quite productive. Tracking them is always a problem. You need to use the shortest url possible, which means you will have no idea where the traffic came from. You can get around it with a temporary domain used exclusively for promotion activity.

Trade Magazines
In the back of most trade magazines are small classified like sections. A simple well written ad can bring in prequalified traffic at affordable prices.

TV and Radio
Got budget to burn? Depending on the size of your local market, radio ads can range from $20 each to a several thousand for short commercials. This is where it is important to have an easy to type domain name. There are so many options here, that tv and radio is best left to traditional offline marketing firms.

Something New
When it is time to move on - move on. VR is just hitting and should continue [vrcast.com...] . Same is true with new OS's and platforms - don't wait. Build pages early and often.

On the other hand, simply sponsoring a segment or feature on the local news can be very cost effective. I know of one local company in a 200k viewer market that sponsors the local tv weather for $30k a year. Works out to be pennies on the dollar for them. At the bottom of several weather maps is their domain name.

Pssst Hey! You like this article? Then hit that email-a-friend link at the bottom and let ten of your pals know that you are a pal! To be a friend you got to e-a-friend ;)



 7:24 am on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Terrific! All-inclusive and right to the point. Thanks - some new ideas to try now.


 9:25 am on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks for posting that - nice to see all the methods laid out together.


 11:50 am on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

"As the search engine referrals continue to fall" - April Fools ?


 11:53 am on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thank KeyPlyr, Marcia.

What's the list missing?

shuffler - sounds like a new thread...


 12:02 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Excellent - post of the year?

Seriously though, we have a client who regularly take out 1/2 page ads in major national newspapers. The most recent was in a major UK broadsheet on a Saturday and Sunday. The web site was not the whole purpose of the advert, but the URL was clearly displayed in large letters. The total number of visitors on each day was only just in to 4 figures.


 12:08 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

The best way I've found to classifieds is via one time specials. "Mention this ad, for 10% off".


 12:26 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)


I've been toying with an idea for free advertising: Sending out a 'press release'.

I think if you can come up with something that is 'new and outrageous', a press release might be some free advertsing.

For example, I live in ND, where farming is big. How about a press release along the lines of, "Website sells DIRT! or "Website sells SNOW."

Something that is odd and newsworthy. Again it could be a 'loss-leader', but it's still free advertising.


 3:02 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hey, you forgot to mention slipping in your URL in postings on forums.

Only kidding :)


 3:15 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Any suggestions on a good source of media e-mails for press releases? I did one for a site launch last year, and found the results a bit disappointing. Supposedly, the release went to 45,000 press and some really big number of individuals - hundreds of thousands or a million. It was only $99 - pretty minimal expense. On the other hand, the results - about 150 visits and no direct press inquiries - were pretty minimal, too. :( I don't think it was terrible value, but it seems pretty clear that 99% of the recipients thought the release was useless spam. If I did it again, I'd try to go with a service that had a little more credibility.


 3:26 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

It's not exactly viral marketing, but next to every "email this page to a friend" I always put an "add this page to favorites" button. I'd estimate that it increases bookmarking by 10 - 25% (watch requests for favicon.ico to see how many IE users are adding you to favories).


 3:31 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

If I were to send out a press release about a website, I would look to make the press release newsworthy.

For example.

"New website sells software" will go into to the trash bin. Even if that's what you sell. It's just not newsworthy.

Think newsworthy. Humorous, outrageous. Think 'tabloid' outrageous. How about an 'auction' to sell "REAL alligator poop" with proceeds going to charity?

I realize my example leaves much to be desired, but I think you get the point.

National media attention is hard to get.

I got very lucky with a practical joke that went nationwide...and culminated with a visit from Dave Barry, the humor columnist.


 3:42 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Quite true, Scott... Must have been a good one to grab Dave "I'm not making this up" Barry's attention. Did you use a formal service to get the word out, or compile your own media list?

Beat me to the punch on that one, 1lit - glad I checked before posting my own version of that suggestion.

www . fuzzy-widgets . com
(a subsidiary of www . yourdomain . com)


 3:47 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks for an excellent summary, Brett.


 3:50 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks Brett,

Another one with a flag.


 4:42 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Great ideas Brett. I have used many of these ideas in the past and recommended them to many customers. One thing to keep in mind is not every method will work for every site. The trick is to keep trying new ideas and use what works.


 4:58 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

An extension of the Article Submission idea--

Every article on a site has a "Recycle This Content" button. Clicking takes you to a request for copyright release.

This suggests that you encourage the legal re-use of your article and makes it easy for others to ask for permission.


 5:39 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Very comprehensive list!

One thing to keep in mind is not every method will work for every site. The trick is to keep trying new ideas and use what works.

Here is one other: Surveys and feed back forms. This one is an annoyance or very "ignorable" if presented blandly but can be very effective if done right, i.e. entertain or inflame!

I have a S*X in Music Survey that I have been running for over a year now. It is targeted to the Urban Music crowd and never fails to bring in repsonses AND additional traffic. Of course, good placement in the SERPS never hurts either. ;)

I can see the "viral" nature in action when I receive responses in obvious "blocks" or groupings.

You know the viral tactic is working when I get multiple responses all from the same .edu domain within a period of a half-hour.


 6:46 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>As the search engine referrals continue to fall for most on the web...<<

Is there any evidence to support that claim?

As for "viral marketing," it's certainly useful, but my own experience over the past six years has convinced me that reciprocal links, media publicity, etc. provide modest incremental gains at best. Here are some anecdotal examples:

1) A few weeks ago, I was prominently featured (with my "dot.com" site name) in the lead article of the Washington Post's travel section. If the article had any effect on traffic, I couldn't discern it.

2) On another occasion, a major Boston radio station interviewed me about renting castle accommodations in Europe. My site name and URL were mentioned during the interview, and I later calculated that I got 5 extra page views on my "Castles of Europe" article as a result of the interview.

3) When Bill Machrone featured my site in his PC Magazine column (which appeared in both the magazine and online), I think I got about 20,000 extra page views for a week, and nothing at all after the second week. Sure, the extra PVs were nice, and the PC Magazine quote makes a nice testimonial, but the lasting effects of the plug have been minimal.

Ditto for mentions in USA Today, Time, the Montreal Gazette, travel guidebooks(including my own), and other media. I'm sure I've picked up some traffic as a result of such publicity, but I doubt if all those media plugs put together are as useful as a prominent Google listing for "Venice" or "Rome airport hotels" or having a URL attached to a database entry is Ask Jeeves.

I've never found directory referrals to be a significant source of traffic, either, except to the extent that Yahoo search pulls up my site's URL. A couple of my sites date back to early 1996 (and have been listed in Yahoo ever since), but I've had very few Yahoo directory referrals over the years. Nearly all of my traffic comes from search.

As for reciprocal links, I suspect they're more useful as a way to increase Google pagerank than as a source of traffic. If I were to add up all the traffic that I receive each day from reciprocal links (even from major sites on my topic), the total would be a fraction of the referrals that I receive from Google and Ask Jeeves.


 7:16 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Brett, a fabulous post/thread.

Downside, I am going to have to take WMW off my resource lists for my clients. One trip to WMW and I'll have no clients left!!! They don't need me <sniff> they have you and the rest of WMW !</sniff>

Gawd.. now I am going to have to compete with former clients.. oh the humanity!!

(Now I am off to the Unemployment and Training center to learn how to say "paper or plastic" and "want fries with that")


 9:13 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

>the lasting effects of the plug have been minimal

We were picked a as site of the day by a large website in our category, which brought us, on that day, about 5000 extra page views. After the link to our site was placed in the archives of their site, the page views dropped over the next week eventually to nothing discernible.

But, on the day we got the 5000 referrals, we also got an extra 1200 bookmarks. So there was some lasting benefit for us, but difficult to calculate.


 11:39 pm on Apr 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>the lasting effects of the plug have been minimal
>in the archives of their site, the page views dropped

I was fortunate to get a small Blurb from MSNBC, in Turkey! No idea how they found me, and no idea what the review says as I don't read Turkish, but I still get 60-80 hits a month from that one writeup.

Sometimes a writeup or SOTD is a spike that dies, and then sometimes it seems to have a life of its own. Never can tell.



 1:58 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

It's really hard to predict how media coverage will work. One site I had got written up in the NY Times and CNN/Money - a few hundred hits apiece, over a few days. Another site I work with can burst that much traffic in a night when it gets mentioned in a special-interest forum (no doubt with a thousandth of the traffic of CNN or the NYT).


 5:03 am on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Well done Brett,

I have just hired two trainees to do nothing else but build pages that are very usefull for scientists in our field, i.e. for example easy on-line calculating of frequently occuring problems (I guess the linkchecker would be your equivalent).

Lets exchange "No Referrer" percentages.
Interestingly enough, mine dropped from 32% last summer to 25% in march this year (I have also doubled my number of pages from 160 to 320 in the same period).

I guess an important factor to check besides focussing on the percentages of "search engine referrals continue to fall" is if the absolute number of search engine referals go up.


 2:23 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

I have one to add to the article submissions Brett. If you can get it, having only 1/3 of the article appear on the other site with a nice keyword rich text link (instead of the traditional ‘click here for the rest of the story) and of course the bio with an additional link included there to the main domain. This gets the folks who are interested to click over to finish the article, you get your text link, you get the bio, and you get a main domain link.


 2:52 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Great technique, paynt! That's like hitting a grand-slam homerun if you can pull it off! (Easier if you control both sites, I suppose...) I have a content-oriented site that gets requests for "reprint" permission, and I'll definitely try to structure some deals like this.


 3:18 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Easier if you control both sites, I suppose...

That's funny rogerd, 'cause that's how I started using it and the click over rate was amazing. If you get some, let us know how it works out.


 7:44 pm on Apr 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>Any suggestions on a good source of media e-mails for
>>press releases?

i say never use email for press releases. it will be dealt with as nothing more than spam because in reality, that's all it is.

press releases should be done on paper and addressed to a specific individual at the newspaper / tv station / radio station / magazine etc. choose the right person first time to make sure they see it. don't bother sending anything to "The Editor" as it won't go any further. the right person will have written or produced something about the subject of your press release within the previous couple of weeks.

the press release should have something to interest the journalist / tv producer / DJ / whoever gets it. as someone else said, "website sells software" simply isn't interesting. a new "miracle cure" health product might be interesting. demographics that "buck the trend" might also be interesting. check surveys from NUA and other organisations to find something that might be interesting. maybe run your own surveys. whatever you do, find one angle that is interesting.

if you're lucky, one organisation will run a story based on your press release. even if it's only a small local newspaper that picks up your press release, go with it, work with them to get the story out. if you're really lucky, other organisations will pick up on that and run their own stories. things could rumble on for months.


 8:00 pm on Apr 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

My experience with the "New Site Announcement" release confirms the spam perception, Crazy_Fool. I agree with the paper info suggestion for maximum impact. Nevertheless, I was hoping to supplement that with a relatively low-cost blast that might hit a lot of marginal publications and second-tier writers that I'd never waste an expensive info packet on. I checked out the BizWire site mentioned in Brett's post, and it looks more or less like what I had in mind. We'll see, the site I'm working with on this has a budget, but it's limited enough that some tough choices will have to be made.


 9:19 pm on Apr 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

brett mentioned bizwire - there is also journalists-direct.com for press releases in the uk. their standard method is email but i'd advise people use letterheaded paper instead.

This 38 message thread spans 2 pages: 38 ( [1] 2 > >
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