Alternative Organic Traffic-Building Techniques

Q. Boyer

Establishing, growing and maintaining a solid traffic base is perhaps the most challenging aspect of creating a great website. As much skill as design, coding, programming and other elements of site construction entails, taking a site from the zero-traffic state it almost necessarily begins with to a level of traffic that produces profitability requires a mix of effort, attention and patience that can be very difficult to sustain — particularly when return on time invested can be slow to arrive and hard to quantify in the early stages of your campaign.

While most traffic generation techniques rightfully focus on producing traffic in volume, it’s always wise to consider aspects other than mass when building traffic to your site as well. Elements of your marketing strategy that affect the way consumers perceive your company, brands and products are crucial to maintaining market position, and can impact your revenue streams in ways that might not be as obvious as a major traffic spike (or sudden traffic drop), but that could be far more significant in the long run.

Elements of your marketing strategy are crucial to maintaining market position, and can impact your revenue streams.

Building traffic through public relations efforts, publicity generation and socalled “viral” marketing isn’t easy, and sometimes the return on any given campaign can be hard to quantify, depending on the nature of the campaign and the environment it is undertaken in. Over time, however, the benefits of a well-conceived and strategic approach begin to build on themselves in a cyclical fashion, with each success breeding and facilitating the next, as the market begins to take note of your brand(s) and develop familiarity with — and ideally, loyalty to — your company and its products.

Press Releases and Media Relations

Although often an afterthought for many adult web companies (and many mainstream ones, as well, for that matter), press releases and the relationships they help establish with media outlets, adult and otherwise, can be an effective means for steadily building your brand’s media profile, which helps set the table for further media coverage down the line.

No single press release is likely to produce significant results on its own; an effective press strategy requires a consistent, steady flow of releases, helping to keep your company and brands in the headlines and on the minds of your target audience. It’s also important not to overdo it, however; don’t put out a press release every time your site updates, and don’t overstate the significance of your company’s every move, or the media outlets will begin to ignore you. The risk that key media outlets might abstain from publishing one of your major releases as a reaction to receiving too many minor ones is real, and is particularly likely to happen with mainstream media outlets, who are in a position of being able to pick and choose adult industry stories to tell (and not tell) entirely at their own discretion.

When you have an announcement ready to pop that you believe there is substantial chance of mainstream media interest, it’s worth using a paid press release service (or a publicist who has access to the same) to ensure the broadest delivery possible of your release. After all, the worst that will happen is that the recipient outlets won’t run the release or cover the story — but that will definitely be the case if you don’t send the releases to them in the first place.

The question of how to write an effective press release is worthy of an article all its own, but I will mention one set of guidelines, mostly because I see so many releases from adult companies that don’t appear to be in need of the advice: Keep your press releases brief, to the point, and as narrow in focus as possible. There’s a strong temptation on the part of a lot of adult marketers and PR people to include any and all potentially relevant facts and information in each release, but the more information you pack into a release, the less focus there will be on any individual point or message the release is attempting to communicate. Instead of taking the “kitchen sink” approach, settle on the main point of the release, the primary fact, event or message that you want readers to be made aware of, and dedicate the entirety of your (brief and focused!) press release to getting that information across.

Also remember that your first audience for any press release is the media outlet itself, so in addition to thinking about the consumers who you hope will eventually read the release, you have to consider that initial audience, as well. Put yourself in the shoes of the outlet and ask yourself: What about this release makes it something their readers need to see? Answering that question effectively is an enormous step in the direction of crafting an effective press release-driven public relations campaign.

Publicity Generation: ‘Attention Whoring’ Done Right

Over the decades, a variety of adult entertainment companies have made good use of publicity stunts, headline-grabbing promotional campaigns and other high profile attention getting techniques to thrust their brand names into the public eye. Given the controversial nature of porn, seeking publicity is fraught with peril, and while shocking and offending the public can be an efficient way of getting attention to your brand, it can also backfire in spectacular ways.

The first, and in many ways most difficult, task in generating publicity is identifying an opportunity, since the best and most memorable publicity stunts tend to be those that occur organically, rather than those that are contrived and carefully manicured. A good publicity stunt perpetrator keeps one eye on the news at all times, seeking out stories that have already captured the public’s imagination, and constantly brainstorming ways to insert their company or brands into the ongoing narrative.

While controversy can be an excellent vehicle for generating publicity, you also must be mindful of the potential for backlash flowing from controversy, and be able to identify the risks as well as the rewards of hitching your brand’s star to the wagon of a controversy that might cross the line between acceptably edgy and unforgivably offensive. In the adult sphere, a good rule of thumb is to avoid anything and everything involving people under the age of 18; even if the publicity effort has a positive spin to it, any association of porn with people too young to look at (and/or be in) is seriously problematic. The last thing you want people to think when they hear your brand name is “isn’t that the porn company that seemed to be trying to appeal to children?”

Another mistake to avoid in your publicity efforts is one that I call “Me Too Syndrome.” To put a fine point on it, if you aren’t Vivid or Hustler and you try to generate publicity by offering a job to a disgraced celebrity, physically-attractive accused murderer or fading reality television star, then you are suffering from Me Too Syndrome in a big way.

Viral Marketing: Don’t Force It, Let It Happen

In my opinion, the term “viral marketing” is something of a misnomer, because it implies a level of control over the process on the part of marketers that doesn’t really exist. Some of the most spectacular failures in recent marketing history have been campaigns initiated by companies that believed they had a “viral hit” on their hands, only to find out that releasing their concept into the wild did their brand more harm than good.

In truth, viral marketing is something that happens essentially on its own; you float an idea into the marketplace, and tastemakers (or ‘sneezers’) largely drive it from there on their own, propelling a natural word of mouth spread that is inarguably one of the mightiest forms of marketing and PR in existence.

If you want to explore the possibilities inherent to viral marketing, prepare to do a lot of work — and to suffer a fair amount of disappointment before ever landing on a true ‘hit.’ The best advice I’ve heard given on the subject sounds simple, maybe even simplistic: “Make good stuff, put it out there and hope for the best.”

That maddeningly vague tip came from a fellow who once served as Microsoft’s director of viral marketing, who told me that his most important on-the-job epiphany was that his job title was a fraud; there simply was no such thing as “viral marketing.”

Having said that, there are things you can do to improve the odds of your house-made memes, jokes, images, and ideas “going viral.” Start by researching the market; what are the things that are being actively shared and eagerly spread by viral evangelists? Don’t try to copy those things, or do your own spin on them, though, because your effort is too likely to look like what it is: a lazy attempt to capitalize on the hot meme of the moment. Instead, look to ‘capture the vibe’ of the popular viral media of the day, as cheesy and hippyesque as that might sound.

Truthfully, the alternative traffic building methods discussed above are only “alternative” because so many adult companies outright neglect them, or fail to fully exploit their potential. They are most effective when they work hand-in-glove with your other traffic building efforts, emphasizing and highlighting the best aspects of your content, marketing and advertising.

Don’t view these vehicles as a mere supplement to your other traffic-generation efforts — and certainly don’t think of them as a replacement for those tactics. Instead, think of every technique as part of a greater marketing mosaic, a vision that incorporates each individual tactic to construct a cohesive whole — a whole also known as your full brand identity.