Is Free Traffic Really ‘Free’?

Traffic generation is one of the hottest topics in the online marketing world because without traffic, no matter how nice it is, your website will be dead in the water.

You could have the most beautiful blog rich in valuable content… or an ecommerce store with wonderful products, but if no one is visiting your blog/store, you’ll have no reach and no sales.

That’s how important web traffic is. There are basically only 2 ways to drive traffic… the free way or the paid way.

Most beginner marketers on a tight budget prefer the free way, whereas intermediate marketers may choose to use both or focus mostly on paid ads because you get faster feedback and easier results (once you’ve mastered it).
I’m going to take a look at at 5 free traffic generation strategies and look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. But before going further, here’s a hard truth…

...Free Traffic Takes Time and Effort

ALL free traffic generation strategies will take time to deliver results. This is the biggest bugbear marketers face. Free methods will usually take months  before they gain traction and traffic starts to snowball.

That makes this a disadvantage that’s common to all the methods below. It takes time and can be unpredictable.

Nevertheless, with consistent effort in the right direction, you will see results. And a lot of people consider organic (free) traffic to be more trustworthy than traffic from paid ads and that gives it higher credibility, meaning conversions will be better. Remember getting the traffic to your site is only one part of the equation – if that traffic is ‘pre-qualified’ and so more receptive to your content, you will get better results.

Now let’s look at the 5 free traffic strategies below and assess them so that you can choose one to focus on.

This is another key point: you’ll make the most progress focusing all your efforts on just one method and getting it to work.

It doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as you harness your efforts and go all the way with it.

1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

This is probably the most popular strategy of the 5, the holy grail if free traffic – but it’s also the most difficult one.

The goal here will be to get your sites ranked organically in Google (and the other search engines, though Google is still by far the biggest player in the marker). Once you’re on the first page for the keyword you’re targeting (and preferably within the first 5 spots above the fold), you’ll be getting traffic on autopilot, round the clock.

That’s the biggest advantage of SEO. Free non-stop targeted traffic. This makes SEO highly cost-effective. You’ll also gain more credibility and reach when you rank organically. People will view your site as an authority on the subject.

The downside to SEO is that the search engines can be fickle. With one Google update, your site’s rankings may simply disappear. If you’re solely dependent on search engine traffic for sales, you might see your earnings dry up overnight. This has happened to a LOT of people, and Google updates are regular occurrences.

Another downside is that SEO is labour intensive. You’ll need to focus on getting your SEO metrics right and have enough content so that you rank well.
Over and above that, you’ll have to build links, get your site to load fast and make sure your site is deemed favorable in Google’s eyes. This is akin to having a day job with an unforgiving boss; only in this scenario, Google is your boss.

To make matters worse, results are not guaranteed, you can do a lot of work and still see very poor results, and you may also be facing fierce competition from other marketers trying to rank for the same keywords as you.

But that’s just how it is. Here are the pros and cons of SEO in bullet points…

Pros and Cons of SEO as a Free Traffic Source



2. YouTube Traffic

YouTube is the 2nd biggest search engine on the planet… and is owned by Google. Millions of people get on this platform daily to look for information and entertainment – ideally both.

Since it’s teeming with traffic, this makes YouTube a very attractive way to drive traffic to your offers, sites, etc. We live in an age where people prefer watching videos over reading. We want our information and we want it fast… and engaging.

And that makes YouTube perfect for engaging with your audience and getting your message across succinctly. Videos can be ranked both on YouTube and on Google, though attaining the latter is far more difficult, so focus on YouTube search.

If your videos rank on YouTube, depending on your search term, you could get thousands or even millions of views. And so having a link in the video description to your site will help to siphon a considerable amount of traffic to wherever you want it to go. The same applies if your video ranks in the Google search results.

Videos are also perfect for building a loyal audience who can put a face to the marketing. They’ll enjoy your content and be pre-sold on your offers if you’re providing constant value in your videos.

Another plus point here is that you can monetize your videos by displaying ads from the YouTube partner program. So you’ll have a side income here as well.

The downside to getting YouTube traffic is that you’ll need to create videos which can be a time-consuming process. Many people are hesitant to appear on videos because they don’t want to show their face, or they feel their accent is too strong – both perfectly understandable concerns. If that applies to you, one thing to note is that with the advent of AI and video creation software such as Pictory, this is not nearly as big an issue as it used to be – anyone can now create really good ‘faceless’ videos using this sort of software.

Editing videos can be very time-consuming too (though again with the right software, you can shortcut this process).

Viewer retention is another challenge. These days, people have the attention span of a housefly and will click off your video if you don’t capture their interest. So, your video creation skills must be on point… and you’ll also be facing a lot of competition.

Just like ranking with SEO, this strategy is unpredictable too. Some videos may rank and some won’t, and you’re always dependant on the whims and fancies of the YouTube algorithm. 

Pros and Cons of YouTube as a Free Traffic Source



3. Social Media

Social media could be Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and so on. Social media is a whole different beast to SEO. While each platform has its own requirements, and the specific techniques and strategies needed for each platform are different, there are a few unwritten rules that apply across the board if you wish to successfully drive traffic from any social media.

One benefit of social media is that it has a wide audience reach. The good news is that it’s free to set up an account with almost all the popular social media apps. But bear in mind, if the platform is free, then you’re the product – and your attention is the currency. So there’s a risk of becoming addicted to social media while trying to drive traffic with it.

That said, your marketing content has potential to go viral on social media. Social media content has a high degree of shareability. This is difficult to achieve with traditional SEO (ranking on Google).

Content on these platforms is highly visual and tends to get more interaction and engagement. You’ll have an opportunity to communicate directly with your audience.

The downside of social media is that the platforms are often ‘noisy’. People scroll by fast and may miss your content. Furthermore, you’ll need to constantly keep posting new content to stay relevant and visible to your audience.

Another insidious downside is that you’re building your house on rented land. Social media apps may deem your content offensive and shut you down on a whim – getting flagged for content that’s not ‘suitable’ for the community is becoming more frequent and often for reasons that can seen ridiculous. In an ever-shifting landscape where people’s sensitivities become more fragile by the day, marketing on social media is like skating on thin ice.

You can get fantastic results but you never know when the ice below you will crack and give way. 

Pros and Cons of Social Media as a Free Traffic Source



4 . Forum Marketing

Forum marketing is an excellent way to drive targeted traffic to your landing pages, sales pages and offers. Since you’ll be driving traffic from forums dedicated to your niche, the traffic will convert better and your audience will be more engaged.

You’ll be able to communicate directly with your tribe and get feedback. There are countless forums dedicated to specific niches. So this is a traffic generating strategy that can be used for many niches, but not all niches.

The downside to this strategy is that it’s time-intensive. You’ll have to spend time in forums daily delivering value… and if you don’t own the forum, you’ll need to abide by the rules and not make promotional posts and so on.
You’ll need to be very mindful of form rules and give real value to build your tribe. You might get negative feedback or be reported to the forum moderators.

Another downside is that depending on the forum, your reach is limited. Unlike social media platforms which are teeming with people, forums may only have a few thousand people.
This means your audience is limited from the get-go and even with an audience of a few thousand people, only a fraction may be regularly interacting in the forum. You’ll have to decide if the forum and its audience base is worth your time before trying to drive traffic here.

The strategy works, but you’ll have to be wise in your approach so that you’re not wasting time and effort.

Pros and Cons of Forums as a Free Traffic Source



5. Email Marketing

Email marketing is simply you sending out emails to your subscriber list and driving traffic to your site or offers. It goes without saying that you’ll first need to build an email list of loyal subscribers. This alone will take you time and effort. 

But if you have opt-in pages and use the traffic methods mentioned above to siphon traffic from the high traffic sites to your opt in pages (or sites where you have a prominent opt in form), you’ll be able to build a list of subscribers that want to hear from you in a regular basis.

Building an email list is simply the most important thing you will ever do online. The one ‘regret’ that all successful internet marketers have is that they did not start building their list sooner. In my opinion, ALL the traffic you drive from the sources listed above (or any other source) should be with the aim of building your subscriber list.

The biggest advantage of email marketing is that you have direct communication with your audience. None of the other traffic methods above come close in this aspect. This is why it is the holy grail of internet marketing.

With automation, you can have emails queued in your email marketing tool that will go out at intervals. This will allow you to have a relatively hands-off approach while the automation does the work for you, once you’ve added all your emails into the sequence.

A big advantage of email marketing is that it converts well, especially if your list likes and trusts you. The money is in the relationship you have with your list.

And with an email list, you can be more granular in your marketing and segment your list by their interests and responses. This way, you can have even better targeting with your emails, and share information and products specifically with those subscribers who you know will be interested in them. All good autoresponders allow you to do this. 

Another major plus is that you can now start to build your list with a reliable autoresponder without paying any monthly fees. Aweber and GetResponse (2 of the most reliable ones there are) now both offer free accounts. As soon as you reach a certain number of subscribers you will need to upgrade to a paid account – but by this stage you will already be making enough from your existing list to cover this cost. The one I recommend if you are just starting out is is Aweber – you can get a free account here.

One common downside to email marketing would be deliverability issues. Your emails may get flagged and end up in the spam folder. Besides that, building and maintaining your email list is an ongoing task.

You’ll get unsubscribes and some people may stop opening your emails – although the better your content is the less this will happen. But you will need to keep adding people to your list. It’s also a good idea to practice good ‘list hygiene; every six months or so to remove unresponsive subscribers, etc. 

Pros and Cons of Email Marketing as a Free Traffic Source




There are a lot of different traffic strategies, and all of them should lead to number 5 above, Email Marketing. When you have your own email list you have a constant source of traffic at your fingertips.

So my advice is to hone in on one strategy that suits you… and ‘go deep’ with it.

The key to making a free traffic method work is consistent action over a period of at least 6 to 9 months, and being patient until you start seeing positive results.

From there, you’ll be inspired and spurred on to do more. Free traffic generation does take time and effort, but it definitely should be in your marketing arsenal.  Don’t put it off. Get started today – the sooner you start the sooner you’ll get traffic .

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