Setting Up Traffic Avenues

Cheryl Cain
There has been a virtual closet full of articles written about traffic, covering the various methods a webmaster can use to draw traffic, as well as what to do with the traffic once you get it.

However, newcomers to the industry often look at these options with tunnel vision, searching for the "best" traffic source, and all too often mistakenly focusing on an a single aspect of source traffic. Veteran webmasters know these sources aren't cut and dried, and that diversification is the name of the game. This article will attempt to broaden the horizon of those who are in a traffic slump, as well as newcomers who want to get the big picture in terms of where to draw their visitors from.

The adage "build it and they shall come" was never intended to apply to web ventures. New webmasters often begin at the wrong step in the process, whether it’s building a paysite or an affiliate operation, when they should really begin with the 'Marketing 101' question, "Where are my customers?" Be that as it may, the question inevitably turns to sales. As the aforementioned 'Marketing 101' dictates, to sell any product, one must do one thing well: Make some noise. For web ventures, that means putting your site out there, in front of the public.

Traffic sources have been called many things and categorized in many ways, but in their basic form, they are probably best viewed in five distinct categories. These include, in no particular order of effectiveness, link trades, trade announcements, purchased traffic, interest lists and trolling. Below, in a nutshell view, are brief descriptions of these categories:

Link trades can be extremely effective traffic sources as long as the webmaster pays attention to the relevancy of the trade. Link trades take the form of text and banner advertising that is placed on another like-minded web venture in exchange for a similar placement on your web venture. They can, at times, cross the line into purchased traffic, but for the purposes of this discussion, these are generally free exchanges.

Trade announcements are the public relations equivalent to a "letter to the editor" of your local newspaper. While not appropriate for all web ventures, they have their place in like-minded interest circles. For adult-related ventures, these avenues may take the form of special interest e-zines, opening announcements on user and member forums and in certain business interests, and trade publications both online and off. These are particularly effective if your product is original or unique in some way, as these announcements promote curiosity and, hence, traffic.

Purchased traffic has its own distinct advantages, and some webmasters swear by its effectiveness. There is a virtual smorgasbord of paid traffic sources out there, most notably pay-per-click listings in search engines, listing in specialty link lists and site reviews with large industry interest sources that are well known for referrals. Mentioned before, certain high-volume web operations also sell link trades in high-volume spots on their operations. Purchased traffic is a highly specialized field and warrants an in-depth investigation of a program's effectiveness for your particular venture. Spending money does not guarantee sales.

Interest links are inclusion links into large referral sites. These also can be paid traffic sources, but are more often free niche-specific listings. Examples of these would be top 10 listings, niche-specific referral lists and entry-level gallery listings such as free sites and thumbnail gallery posts. If you are running a specialty niche interest, these interest links can be a webmaster's best friend. I have personally seen this method used as the only advertising campaign when running a specialty interest site. The narrower the niche target, the more effective these venues seem to be for attracting like-minded surfers. Surfers love them because they do not have to hunt around for what interests them. Unfortunately, this area also seems to be one of the most improperly used as well as underused areas of attracting traffic. It does take some personal time to hunt out these good locations for specific interests, but they are well worth the effort.

Trolling is probably the least beneficial method of grabbing traffic, probably because it is the least targeted – but that depends greatly on what you are selling. Examples of this hunt-and-peck method of finding traffic includes "free for all" link lists, free blind inclusions in general search engines and, of course, limited traffic areas such as Yahoo and MSN groups, or even Usenet. That is not to say that these cannot be beneficial; it depends greatly on what you are marketing and how you go about it. But in terms of strategic marketing, one's time would be better spent in areas and methods better suited for bulk traffic exposure.

For a more detailed look at these methods, point your browser toward XBiz or any of the other excellent resource sites available to webmasters today. In terms of looking for traffic sources, the most important point to understand is diversification. If you are stacking all of your eggs in just a few baskets, you are likely missing a lot of opportunities for new sales. Happy hunting.