- Internet & the Web
How to Draw More Visitors to Your Website Without Spending Money
There are ways to build traffic to your website without having to spend money. I've been self-employed for the past 15 years, and one of my favorite ventures was developing websites. One of my sites, a web directory, provided good monthly income through affiliate advertising, but it wouldn't have been successful if I hadn't been able to generate large numbers of visitors. My directory pages ranked in the top 5 on MSN and other places, and I never paid one cent to any person or business or search engine to get there; however, I did spend a good amount of time working to build my traffic.
There are a few simple tips I can share which should help increase traffic to your website, but before you begin promoting and trying to build traffic, it's important to make sure your website is very polished and professional looking. No matter what subject your website is about, there are some simple rules that are important to consider if you want to attract visitors and have them return or recommend your site to others:
1. Avoid using an entrance/splash page. This is just my opinion. I find it very annoying to do a search, click on a link, then find myself looking at a presentation or entrance page when all I really want is to get to the information I'm searching for. Many times I just hit the back button and move on.
2. Don't clutter your page(s) with animated graphics or cartoon graphics unless this is the nature of your website's content. It's not professional, and it's very distracting.
3. Stay away from putting text over pictured backgrounds unless you can use a pictured background to frame your page in a way that allows text to be read on a plain background. The main page should be easy to read, and it can be very difficult to read words that appear over pictures. Personally, I also find it difficult to read text over a black background.
4. Make sure your page is easy to navigate. Have some form of navigation that is easily recognizable and easy to use, such as a vertical or horizontal navigation bar. Dynamic Drive is an incredible resource to find any web development tool you need for free, and they offer an excellent choice of navigation tools to use on your website.
5. Have someone proofread your text. Typos and grammar mistakes are distracting and take credibility away from you and your content.
6. Don't have broken links or construction zones (unfinished pages).
7. Make sure the load time for your index page is quick. If people have to wait more than 3 or 4 seconds for a page to load, unless they still use dialup and are used to long load times, they'll probably hit the back button and move on.
8. Ensure that the best you have to offer is immediately viewable on the screen without having to scroll down the page. You may lose visitors if they have to scroll down the page and/or search to get to the meat of your subject.
9. Try to include features that bring visitors back to your site, such as a forum, chat rooms, email, daily or weekly blogs and so on.
Free Resources to Keep People Coming Back
Bravenet.com offers many features for free including message forums, a guestbook, widgets, traffic exchange, cartoons, templates, chat rooms, and more.
Freecenter.com offers an entire list of resources for getting a free message forum for your site.
Two places that offer free chat rooms for your site include:
Make Your Site Search Engine Friendly
The first thing you should do is make sure your site is search engine friendly, and you begin by developing a list of keywords and key phrases to use throughout the content of your main page. If you need help in figuring out the best keywords for your site, then one resource that can provide extra information and assistance with this process is buildwebsite4u.com, and it's free.
Once you've developed a list of keywords and phrases, do a test by using those words and/or phrases in a search and see what sites come up in the results. If the sites that come up are a good reflection of your site's content, then you know you're going in the right direction.
You can also check to see what keywords these other sites are using along with how they construct their meta tags by viewing their html. To view html, you simply pull up the webpage you want to check out, when it's fully loaded in your browser, click on "view," then click on "source." Some webmasters block this feature, so if you can't view the html, it's probably blocked, and you should move on to another site. I'm not recommending this as a means to copy what others are doing, but to show you how to get an idea of what might be making competitor's sites more visible in searches. Your site should be original, and your keywords should be words that are used in the body of text on your index page.
Keywords are also important to use in your meta tags which should reflect your actual content. Having a good title tag and description meta tag is important, and I also believe that using keyword meta tags are important; however, some things have changed since I was a webmaster/mistress, so I had to do some research about meta tags and search engines. I discovered that search engines still use the title tag and description meta tag, and some search engines still recognize and use keyword meta tags while others don't. Yahoo is a major search engine that still recognizes keyword meta tags, and that (to me) is reason enough to use the keyword meta tag. It's also a good idea to use this particular tag to reinforce the keywords you have in the body of your main text which is what all search engines care about. Having good meta tags may not boost your site's ranking these days, but they can help your site stand out in search results and many search engines use meta tags to index your site. Search Engine Watch is a great place to get more detailed information about the different search engines and how they operate.
Three important tags and what they look like:
1. A title tag looks like this:
<title>Your Web Page Title</title>
Major crawlers will use your title tag as the title of your page in their search results, and some browsers will display your title tag in the top portion of the browser. Try to put a couple keywords in the title tag that are also in the body of text on your index page.
2. A description meta tag looks like this:
<meta name="description" content="Your description">
Your description should contain select keywords from the body of text on your index page. Make your description very alluring, clear, concise, and well written because this is what will appear on search result pages.
3. A keyword meta tag looks like this:
<meta name="keywords" content="keywords and keyword phrases">
Many say it's not worth including keywords in your meta tags because only a few search engines even notice them. I say if ANY search engine takes notice of keyword meta tags, then put them in your site! Don't go crazy over the process, just pull out the main keywords and phrases from your content and use them in the keyword meta tag for the search engines who do pay attention. Like I said before, Yahoo takes notice of keyword meta tags...check it out for yourself here.
The general rule for constructing a keyword meta tag is to use words and phrases separated by commas, no spaces after the commas, and don't use the same word more than 2 or 3 times.
Once your meta tags are complete you can have them analyzed for free with an online Meta Tag Analyzer.
Places to Submit Your Site For Free
At this point you can start submitting your site to as many search engines and directories as possible. You can use an automated service, such as Submit Express which is a free service that automatically submits your site to 20 different search engines, but I recommend doing it manually and keeping a record of each place you submit your site to. Freewebsubmission.com is a really good site that gives you a choice of manual or auto submission. They have a list of hyperlinked search engines and directories for you to choose from which can save time in finding free submission places.
You can submit your site to Yahoo, Google, MSN, and the Open Directory Project for free. (Each site is linked directly to the URL submission page.) It's reported that Google gives emphasis to sites listed in the Open Directory Project, so it's worth taking the time to submit your site there. It's also worth spending some time searching out other free search engines and directories.
Many search engines, especially Google, will rank your site higher according to link popularity. To gain link popularity, you need to have outbound links to other websites on your site, and you need other sites to link to you. Link swapping is a good way to build popularity and increase traffic, but you need good quality link partners. Ensure that the sites you swap links with are professional sites that are also related to the content you're offering. This is especially important to Google, and you can find more information about how to make your pages Google-friendly here.
The easiest way to begin link swapping is to start performing searches with the keywords you are using to attract visitors to your site, and then take the first 25 (or more) sites that come up in each search and email them to request a reciprocal link exchange. Having a link to your site listed on other sites that rank high in a search is very positive, and the more quality links you have on your site along with sites linking back to you, then the higher you will rank in searches. It's also very positive to have a link to your site listed on other sites as an additional resource for their visitors. People who see you listed as a resource on other quality sites will most likely check you out.
Suggestions for Requesting a Reciprocal Link Exchange
Here are a few simple suggestions for requesting and executing a link exchange:
- Make sure your choice of sites to swap links with are professional and of good quality. You won't get quality visitors from a low quality site. Be picky and don't associate your site with any place that could be viewed as offensive to others.
- Stick to sites that share the same thread of interest. If your site is about gardening, stick to gardening sites.
- Carefully plan, write, and proofread the email you will send requesting a reciprocal link exchange. Your email needs to be a short, concise request that includes a brief sincere compliment about how nice and/or informative their site is along with a request to exchange links and why you feel your site would be a valuable resource for them to add to their site. Of course, provide a URL to your site. Don't be discouraged if you don't get a response or if you get a negative response - keep at it because it will pay off.
Once you've built up a good base of inbound and outbound links, you can use a Link Popularity Checker (free) to keep track of your progress. Submit Express also provides a free link popularity checker along with other helpful tools, such as a broken link checker, page snooper, page rank checker, meta tag generator, keyword suggestion tool, and more.
Add Your Link
Another simple thing that will draw people to your website is to offer an "Add Your Link" feature. I'm not talking about a free for all links page, which can be considered very spammy by search engines. I'm talking about a link submission page where other webmasters can submit a link to their site via email or form for you to review for inclusion on your webpage. When you receive link submissions, review the sites, if they are of good quality and represent content that corresponds with your site's content, then send them an email of approval and request that they provide a reciprocal link back to you on their site.
Quality is Key
Quality content is the biggest key to success, because this is what will draw search engines and visitors to your webpage, and this is what's necessary if you want other sites to link to you and provide your site on their site as a resource for information.
Lastly, networking helps:
- Join groups that reflect the central idea of your webpage, and share your site with them when appropriate. If you have an astrology website, join some astrology groups/forums and when topics come up that are related to information on your webpage, then share it with the group. Don't join random groups and spam forums that are unrelated to your webpage.
- Send a link to your webpage to family members and friends and ask them to share it with others.
- If you have a Facebook or MySpace account, share your webpage there as well.
Good luck, and I hope these suggestions work as well for you as they did for me.