The modern world of eBusiness has opened up countless opportunities for anyone that has a bit of creativity and a good work ethic. The incredible accessibility of the Internet grants virtually anyone the ability to get online and start his or her own money-making venture. Whether his or her enterprise is a traditional store with a website front, a store run solely on the Internet, or a new type of business that runs on subscriptions or ad revenue, almost everyone has some use for the Internet to bolster his or her business.
The real trick about the Internet’s ability to help a business is that you absolutely must know what you are doing. If you simply put a website online and sit and wait, no one is ever going to find you. There are literally hundreds of millions of websites on the Internet, and your potential customer is not going to just stumble upon yours through luck. Luckily, for the savvy Internet user, there are several key steps to take that will ensure that your customers are flooding into your website, ready to consume your product.
A good place to start looking for traffic to your website is the closest place to it: the Internet. Sure, it is possible to advertise using conventional means (billboards, fliers, commercials, etc.) and get plenty of traffic, but there are key advantages to using the Internet to generate business on the Internet. It is much more likely that someone will take the time to click a link to your website than it is that he or she will write it down while driving past a billboard and type it into his or her computer when he or she gets home.
If you are looking to generate quality traffic on a budget, then there is really no better way to go about doing it than one that will allow you to not spend a dime. One of the best free ways of generating traffic is by posting on online discussion boards, also known as forums. These posts will offer your potential customers the ability to go directly to your website from your posts, as well as find your information on their favorite search engine.
The simplest way to get customers to your website is to give them a link. When posting on a forum, you are often offered the opportunity to include a link and brief description for your business in every one of your posts. Other users do not mind this small amount of text after each one of your posts; often, others will have much more intrusive “signatures.”
The idea behind a link in your signature is that a potential customer will see information relevant to him or her (the description), and if he or she wants to learn more, will click on the link that goes with the description. The traffic that you receive in this manner will be from very targeted individuals who are interested in what you have to offer. The conversion rate (number of sells compared to the number of visits) from this type of traffic is very high. For that reason, direct traffic is also considered “high quality” traffic.
Another means of generating direct traffic is by providing a link to your website from your actual post. If you find a topic that is relevant to your business and post information that contributes to the discussion, then you should feel free to link back to your business website and let everyone know that they can go there if they would like more information about the subject or a product that is relevant. [Be careful to read the rules of the forum before doing this, however, as some forums are very sensitive to anything that smells even a little like spam. --Ed.]
Traffic generated from links in posts is even higher quality than links from signatures, because the potential customers that are going to your website are doing so because they are interested in the specific topic that you were discussing, and not just the general idea that you convey in your signature’s description.
One thing you must watch out for as far as this kind of linking is concerned is that it can be very easy to get a negative reputation. If you provide a link to your business in every single one of your posts, it will quickly become obvious that you are just trying to be a salesperson. Also, if the content of your post is not constructive and you contribute nothing to the discussion, people will figure that you are just a personal billboard, and ignore you as such.
A more complicated means of generating traffic for your website is by providing links that help your search engine rankings. Luckily for you, there is very little that you actually need to understand in order to take advantage of this form of traffic generation.
The way it works is that every time you post your link on the Internet, a search engine like Google or Yahoo! will automatically detect your link. Every time the search engine finds that same link in different places across the web, it puts another “tally mark” next to it. This running tally—the number of times your link is found on the Internet—affects how close to the top your link will show up when someone searches for keywords that are relevant to your website. This is the most basic idea behind link building and SEO. In other words, the more times you post your link on the web, the more likely it is that your website will show up in top search engine results.
Another aspect of search engine link detection is that certain search engines can differentiate the different pages of your website based on your links. If you provide links to different pages of your website, the search engines will keep track of each page separately in addition to the website as a whole. In essence, you are getting two tally marks—as opposed to one—every time you post a different link.
If the search engines have a record of each of your specific web pages, it is much more likely that search engine results will be much more relevant to your information. As discussed before, this means that you will get much higher quality traffic, which converts to more sales and more money for your business.
Recently, search engines have begun offering website developers the option to designate certain links as “no-follow.” If you find a forum that has this option enabled, what it means is that you can post as many links as you want in all of your posts and the search engines will never notice. Obviously, this will negatively affect your search engine rankings and traffic generation. What you need to do to avoid this trap is learn the difference between “do-follow” links and “no-follow” links.
In 2005, in an attempt to ensure the highest quality of search engine results, Google popularized an HTML attribute called “no-follow.” The idea is that webmasters can indicate links that are not to their own content by tagging them as no-follow. This feature is often used by websites to indicate to search engines that links generated by users are not to be followed and indexed. Although the theory behind this idea is fairly sound and it is probably true that “no-follow” has reduced the amount of random page results in search engines, “no-follow” is the forum-marketer’s worst enemy when it comes to upgrading your search engine rankings.
Luckily for you, it is actually very easy to avoid forums which adhere to the “no-follow” attribute. You can find lists of such forums on a website such as this one . You can use this list, which seems to be updated frequently, or search for your own using any major search engine.
Once you have found a list of discussion boards that will work for you, you have to choose one or two specific ones that best suit you and your personality. If you would like to make the most of your own knowledge to get the word out there about your business, then you have to choose a discussion board that revolves around a main concept that is in line with your business and/or interests. If you are posting about a topic on which you are knowledgeable and in which you are interested, it is more likely that you will come off as legitimate. The greater the quality of your posts, the more likely people will believe you and follow your links.
Once you have found a forum that supports “do-follow” links and is also related to your area of expertise, you are almost ready to start marketing your own website. I just have one more piece of advice for you: come off well. You can become a respected and well-liked source of information on your topic quite easily if you are respectful and knowledgeable in your posts. However, if you are controversial and rude, it is much more likely that people will come to hate reading your posts. They will not follow your links and your time posting will be completely wasted.
If you have any questions about building links via forum posting, just shoot me a question in the “comments” section below, and I’d be happy to help.