Having a mix of trophy and long-tail phrases ranking in Google search engine results pages (SERPs) is the equivalent of manna from heaven to any online business. There's nothing better, if you have it, and nothing worse, if you lose it.
More than one business has suffered collateral (sometimes fatal) damage in the wake of a Google algorithm update. Thousands more are certain to suffer a similar fate in the future.
The reality is that most small companies will never rank well in Google and are wasting their time focusing on SERPs alone. The days of David beating Goliath in organic search are numbered, at best, and in most cases, nothing but a memory.
If you don't have the budget to create content and build backlinks better than your competitors, you will not outrank them. If you're a new entry in a crowded niche, it will be a long time, if ever, before you achieve any meaningful SERPs.
Rather than worry about losing or never having Google organic search traffic, plan for it. No one can afford to rely upon a single traffic source for business. You need multiple streams of traffic as insurance against the inevitable changes in search algorithms.
Here are the 10 best ways to generate traffic without Google.
1. Blog Commenting
There are several top blogs in your niche (like this one) that get hundreds if not thousands of visitors on a daily basis. The proper way to do blog commenting is to thoroughly read the post and if you have something useful or meaningful to add to the conversation, then leave a comment.
The purpose of commenting isn't to drop a link, but to add value to the conversation and to grow your network. Use your real name as the commenter and a percentage of readers will click through to learn more about you.
Pro Tip: If you have content on your site related to the post, use that URL as a link rather than the home page. Those who do click through will then have an even better user experience.
2. Content Aggregators
Just create great content and Google will reward you with traffic, right? Maybe, if you have an established website with lots of trust and authority. Not so much, if you have a new blog or website. The workaround for this is getting your content listed on popular content aggregators, where lots of people will see it
Some popular aggregators include:
Alltop bills itself as the "online magazine rack" of the Web.
BizSugar.com is a community of small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Growth Hackers is a community sharing online marketing techniques.
Hacker News is a social news website that caters to programmers and entrepreneurs.
Inbound.org is a community sharing and discussing content and online marketing ideas.
Pro Tip: Pay attention to the rules and don't submit to unrelated aggregator sites. Make sure the content is useful, original, high-quality, and not just self-promotional.
3. Forum Commenting
As you are reading this, there are probably dozens of conversations happening around the Web that are related to your niche. Joining or starting a forum conversation can result in instant traffic.
As with blog commenting, this isn't about dropping a link, but rather about engaging a conversation and adding value to that conversation. Forum commenting reminds me of the show American Pickers, where they discuss finding the honey hole. When we find a forum where the client really "clicks" with the community, it can drive thousands of visits over time.
Pro Tip: Find related forums using the Google search operator "Keyword inurl:forum." Join the forum, pay attention to the rules, participate, and become a real member of that community. Avoid blatant self-promotion – it isn't necessary and will backfire. If you're providing useful information in the forum, users will seek you out.
Forget the speculation that Google+ is going away – it isn't. Google+ can drive loads of traffic, and you don't even need followers.
The strength of Google+ lies with communities. As with forums, the participants are typically hardcore fans of a given activity. We like to think of these folks as highly targeted prospects. Google makes it easy to find niche communities.
Pro Tip: Join the leading communities in your niche. Engage with other members, by providing useful information and giving +1s to others' posts. Once you've become a recognized, trusted member of a community, then you can post an occasional link to a useful and related blog post or article.
5. Guest Blogging
Matt Cutts' manifesto, "The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO," has been widely misunderstood as meaning that guest blogging is dead. It isn't. What Cutts said was this: "If you're using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop."
Guest blogging done properly has nothing to do with links – it's all about leveraging traffic. If your content appears on a popular blog, you accomplish two things:
You establish yourself as an authority in the niche.
A certain percentage of the blog readers will look into your product or service and become customers.
Q&A sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers offer another great opportunity to generate highly targeted traffic. If you can provide a genuine solution to a real problem, you may have a customer for life. At the very least, you'll build up good karma.
Pro tip: Don't spam these sites by asking, then answering your own questions. Once again, the purpose of this exercise is to provide useful information and to drive traffic.
If you can find a relevant niche or subreddit with a decent number of subscribers (thousands) and traffic, then Reddit is an option worth exploring. The key is to create useful content relevant to the subreddit. A percentage of Reddit users will read your content, click through to your site, and buy your product or service, if it is a good fit.
There are unique rules for every subreddit, which you should know and follow. Generally speaking, links to your own site are allowed, but linking exclusively to your own site is not.
Participating in the community is important, so remember to leave comments for others. Reddit has a voting system, so the more you post the better your chance to increase your score. Conversely, if your content stinks and gets down voted, your score will go down. Over time, you should build up a good reputation.
Pro Tip: Research the subreddit to see what types of posts historically get upvoted to the front page. Once you know the pattern, create a unique version that matches the model of past success. Page one is never guaranteed, but after some trial and error, the odds for success will improve.
8. Social Media
Bet you saw this one coming. For most people, Facebook offers the best opportunity for traffic. The formula for success is pretty simple: Optimize your Facebook profile and link back to your website. Provide useful and fun content on a regular basis. Make it easy to share your website content on Facebook by using a share button.
Pro Tip: Depending on the niche, Twitter, Vine, and Instagram have all proven to be successful in driving significant traffic. If you have the resources, test these out as well.
YouTube is the second largest search engine on the Web, processing more than 3 billion searches a month. To put this in perspective, it's bigger than Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and AOL combined and should not be ignored.
In our experience, the best performing videos for many e-commerce websites are how-tos and tutorials. Niche videos can drive tons of traffic.
I bet you've never heard of the Honda Ruckus – it's a small scooter. If you have a Honda repair shop, you might want to consider producing a video on how to change the oil – this one has generated more than 25,000 views.
The number one message delivered by top affiliate marketers is "the money is in the list." In reality, every business can benefit from a mailing list. With robust and easy-to-use email services like mailchimp to manage lists and campaigns, there's no excuse for missing out on this opportunity.
Another reason to love email is the conversion rate of 3.34 percent. Compare this to search at 1.94 percent and social at 0.79 percent and you can see just how productive this form of marketing can be.
Pro Tip: A/B test your emails. A simple variation in the subject line can vastly affect the open rate.
A Word of Caution
Most, if not all, of these opportunities have been polluted to some extent by spammers over the years. The point of this post is there are legitimate ways to use these channels to deliver valuable information and drive targeted traffic to your website.