You’ve put a lot of time into creating an awesome website. Now you need people to find it.
Frankly, that’s the hard part. The web is huge. With millions of websites on just about every topic you can imagine, you’ve got a lot of competition to capture people’s attention.
You can’t expect to launch your website and wait for your audience to find you. For people to visit your website, you have to work to get it in front of them. Luckily, there are a lot of different tactics you can use to make that happen and some of them are even free!
If your website doesn’t have a budget to put toward promotion, you still have some powerful ways to start reaching new website visitors. The catch is that, what you save in money, you should expect to spend in time.
Most of these tactics will require a significant time commitment (although notably, you can save the time if you have money to spend on hiring a professional to do these for you).
1. Prioritize SEO.
Google is the main way people find most of the websites they visit. Over 90% of all web searches start there.
One of the best ways to make your website easier for people to find is to get it showing up in the search engines.
To be clear, this isn’t easy. Search engine optimization is competitive and requires doing a variety of tasks on an ongoing basis, including:
- Doing audience research to identify the people you most want to reach.
- Doing keyword research to learn the terms and topics your audience is interested in.
- Optimizing each page on your site for your target keywords.
- Creating relevant, high-quality content on a regular basis.
- Promoting your website and content to bring in more visitors and gain the attention of influencers.
- Performing link building campaigns to increase your website’s authority.
It requires creating a strategy and putting in the work, but SEO is one of the most valuable tactics for making your website more discoverable online.
We know that SEO can feel intimidating. Maybe you know that you need SEO, but don’t know where to start.
Check out the HostGator Business Cloud package. It comes with a free SEO tool that will generate a personalized step-by-step SEO plan for your website. The SEO tool will show you how to improve your search ranking, and will send you real-time updates to your website rankings and monitor your competitors’ rankings as well.
2. Do social media promotion.
Creating accounts on the various social media sites is completely free, as is sharing your content with followers on those sites.
You don’t have to be on every single social media channel—for most website owners that would be overwhelming. Take some time to research where your audience is most likely to be and how they use the different sites. And consider which social channels are a fit for your website.
If your audience generally prefers written content over video, then you may not need to be on YouTube. A photography website should definitely be on Instagram, but one that’s light on images may do better on Facebook and Twitter.
Whichever social media channels you decide to go with, there are a few best practices worth keeping in mind:
- Tailor your messaging to the channels. If you promote your website on both Instagram and LinkedIn, you’ll need to take different approaches to each.
- Promote your content more than the general site. Including your home page in your social media bio makes perfect sense, but tweeting out a link to just the homepage usually doesn’t. You’ll get more results if you drive people to pages on your website that include helpful content.
- Do more than just promote your site. A common mistake people make on social media is to treat it only as a platform for promotion, when it’s supposed to be social—it’s right there in the name. Do drop your website link into your bio and share your awesome content with your followers, but also devote some time to interacting with other people on the site. Share and respond to their stuff and look for opportunities to join conversations and communities.
- Think before you share. Social media faux pas are far too common. Don’t let the fast, transitive nature of social media make you lazy. Proofread your social media posts and make sure everything you share is something you’re willing to stand behind.
Social media is one of the most powerful free tools for promoting your website, but getting something out of it without sinking all your time into it can be a challenge. Be thoughtful and strategic about which sites you use and how you use them.
3. Create high-value content.
Consistently producing great content is useful for both SEO and social media promotion, but it’s also good for drawing new visitors to your site in and of itself.
The more content you create that helps people, the more reasons they have to visit your website. Blogging is a great tool for consistently producing fresh content that shows Google your website is current and relevant, while also giving visitors something useful to read and return to.
And you can use especially high-value content like an ebook or course to stand out in the crowded content space, draw in new visitors, and potentially get email addresses for your list.
4. Start guest blogging.
Creating content on your own site is a smart strategy for giving people more reasons to visit, but usually it works best if you combine it with creating content on other relevant websites that give you the chance to reach a new and bigger audience. Many websites accept guest blogs because it means free content for them.
For you, it means an opportunity to build links (good for SEO) and drive new visitors to your website. Be strategic in your guest posting to make sure you get the most out of it:
- Look for websites that cover similar or related topics to yours, whose audience will overlap with the one you’re trying to reach.
- Prioritize pitching websites that have a large or dedicated audience (ideally both).
- Take some time to get to know the website before you write a piece for it. You want to be familiar with their audience and the types of posts that generally perform well there.
- Include relevant links in your guest posts back to your own website, along with the link you include in your bio.
- Make sure your guest posts are high quality—you want to make a good impression on the new audience you reach.
Guest posts help you build up the authority of your website and attract new visitors at the same time.
5. Join and participate in online communities.
Online communities are valuable on a number of levels. They give you the chance to connect directly with your target audience. You can learn how they talk and the kinds of questions they regularly ask. You can turn that knowledge into a content strategy that ensures you’re creating content you know your audience needs. And then you can go back and share that content in the communities the next time someone needs it, driving people back to your website.
But as with social media, it pays to spend time participating in the community and becoming a valued member before you start pushing out your stuff. Depending on where your audience hangs out, you could find worthwhile communities to join on Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn, Facebook, or in industry-specific forums.
Decide which ones to join and start spending a little time in them each day or week to learn from your audience and start becoming a part of the community.
6. Connect with influencers.
A lot of getting your website in front of other people depends on other people wanting to share it. That’s part of what makes successful promotion difficult. You can share content on your own site all day, but people are more likely to care if someone else they follow and trust shares or links to it—giving it their endorsement in internet terms.
And people who have a lot of authority or followers online are more likely to share content from people they know and trust. You want to be one of those people.
You can pinpoint some of the influencers in your space by using tools like Buzzsumo or Followerwonk to find the people with the most followers in your niche. Follow those influencers and pay attention to the people and websites they share.
Over time, you’ll become familiar with the top websites in your topic area and the personalities behind them.
Look for ways to interact with them. Share their content, respond to their status updates, or leave comments on their blog. If you notice them participating in Twitter chats or social communities, join and participate as well. By interacting with them, you can start to get onto their radar and, ideally, begin to develop a relationship with them.
This step takes time, and you need to be careful not to get pushy or ask too much—your interactions need to be genuine. But relationships are a crucial part of promoting your website and content, so this is an important step to incorporate into your strategy. Plus, you may get a few friends out of it!
7. Become a source.
Journalists and bloggers often look for quotes and anecdotes from sources to add depth to the stories they write. If you can position yourself to be that source, you can gain a link back to your website and some attention from a new audience.
The easiest way to become a source is to sign up for Help a Reporter Out.
You can select the topics relevant to your expertise, and receive emails daily that collect all the requests writers around the web have for sources. When you see one that’s a match for you, follow the instructions and share your knowledge, along with the name of your website and a link.
If the writer uses a quote from you, they’ll often (but not always) include a link back to your website in the piece.
8. Use expert sources.
When you quote somebody in the content on your website, they’re more likely to take an interest in what you’ve written. Even better, they’ll often share it with their network of followers.
When you’re working on a new piece of content, consider if it could be strengthened by a quote from an expert—bonus points if you can identify an expert on the list of influencers you’ve been working to connect with—and reach out to ask them for their insights.
Try to keep your ask small. Most people that make a good expert source are busy. A quick answer by email or a 15-minute phone interview should do the trick. Work their insights into your piece, and then let them know once it’s published.
9. Do email marketing.
Email marketing isn’t exactly a strategy for finding new customers since it requires someone to have already visited your website and signed up for your email list. Keep in mind that people signed up for your email list because they already liked something on your website or something from your business.
This is where email marketing comes in handy – getting them to come back to your website or business.
Look for places around your website and in your content to encourage people to sign up for your email list. If you created an especially high-value piece of content like an ebook or course, you can put that behind a form that requires a visitor to provide their email address in order to access it. You can even promote your email list on social media.
Once people start to sign up for your list, you can use your emails to drive them back to your website whenever you add new content or, if you have a business website, new deals and products.
If you use email marketing, make sure you send emails consistently to keep your website top of mind for your subscribers. Make your emails as valuable and entertaining as possible. And, as with social media, don’t make them all about promoting yourself or your website. Fill your emails with information that will be genuinely valuable to your audience.
A note on email marketing: many email marketing software services have a free version, but as your list grows, you’ll likely need to upgrade to a paid version. This is a tactic that can be free to start, but may require a budget with time.
10. Do link building.
This is part of SEO, but also worth mentioning on its own. Link building provides two key benefits:
- It makes your website look more authoritative to Google—links are widely considered to be one of the top ranking signals for the search engine.
- It drives more traffic to your website from people who follow the links from other sites.
You have to be really careful with link building that you only use legitimate tactics. Links on low-quality sites could hurt rather than help you in the search engine rankings and wouldn’t drive much traffic your way anyways. But including some smart white-hat link building tactics in your strategy can help boost your rankings and raise awareness of your site to readers around the web.
Creating your website isn’t enough. You need to make it easy for people to find. You don’t necessarily need to do everything on this list, but use it as a starting point to figure out the best tactics for you and put together a strategy that will ensure your website reaches more people.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.