How to drive traffic to your website with zero budget

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There are so many ways to pay for marketing and advertisements, but for all of my broke friends out there trying to sell a few pairs of handmade earrings online, for those who host events and need to get big before they can spend anything, for the startups who work crazy hours waiting for someone to notice their idea, for the non-profits and charities scrambling to make ends meet, and for the single parent trying to side hustle - this one’s for you.

Marketing 101 for people who have nothing to spend on online marketing. Here we go.

You’ve got something good...but need people to see it

Driving traffic means directing anyone who comes across your brand to look at it from a specific website. For a lot of stores, that means driving traffic directly to your website. For others, it means trying to get as many people as possible to your biggest social media platform, and for others it’s making sure anyone who shows vague interest gets on your email list.

Choose where you want to drive traffic to, and stick with it until you’re ready to upsize. Of course, most companies can and should have multiple presences - a website, a YouTube Channel, an Amazon store, a Facebook group, an Instagram...but when you are a new product or company, people generally only want to do one thing at a time. Telling someone who passes you by to follow you everywhere means that your following will end up being a lot more splintered than needed.

Think of it this way - if you’re hosting a party, you want to use a space that will fill up and feel like there’s a buzz going on. You want people to be knocking up against each other a bit. If instead, you hire out a 20 room mansion for a guest list of 30, it will feel like barely anyone is there. It’s similar with directing your traffic - start out by focusing on one place you really want people to go to (depending on your main content) and make sure all platforms you are using are encouraging people to head to the party. That means, for example, that if you want to direct traffic to your website, your URL should be pinned to the top of your social media platforms, any tweets or YouTube videos should have links to your website, and your main content should all be on your website.

Drive traffic with social media

Paying for ads on Facebook and Instagram is very common, but can be hit or miss in terms of ROI. If you’re working on a zilch budget, you might not want to pay for ads - but you might be willing to put the time in to become a social media guru. Here are a few places to start:

  • Create a Facebook page for your product, and start putting up pictures of your product. Invite everyone you know to like it.
  • Join Facebook Groups and sneak your product into discussions and conversations
  • Make a Facebook Custom Audience and see what kinds of groups and pages your ideal customer likes. 
  • Create an Instagram account and use Instagram Stories to encourage people to check out your products
  • Get on Reddit and start talking about your company in relevant threads
  • Make a YouTube channel and subscribe to influencers in your industry
  • Get on Twitter and follow lots of people who have used a #hashtag in your industry. Retweet interesting posts and comment - the more engagement the more likely they are to follow you back (but please be tactful and actually read what they write instead of blindly commenting)
  • #Use #Lots #Of #Tags #To #Join #The #Conversation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Create content that works for your brand and search engine optimisation

Before you launch, you should always have some content already prepared. Content marketing is the basis of online marketing - it’s anything you produce (words, visuals, etc) that is focused on a targeted issue or product.

If it’s just you doing the work, start by creating content that plays to your strengths, and that you’ll regularly be able to produce. Is it videos? Blog posts? Are you a great photographer? Create a few original pieces and then do some SEO cleanups, such as:

  • Give any content you post a short, snappy description that uses a few key words in your metadata
  • Always include a Call To Action that directs people to the site you want them on (sign up for our newsletter here/follow us on Instagram/Join our Facebook community etc)
  • Cross-advertise your content on all of your platforms. If you wrote a blog post, tweet about it
  • Make sure your headings include at least one major keyword
  • Try to include a specific location that you work in within your content - this helps search engines know who to put your results in front of based on where they live
  • Include links to other websites that have related content within your own content 

Bonus Read: Capture Your Audience: DIY Photography from your smartphone

Use minions to do your bidding

One of the most effective ways to do PR is to get people other than yourself talking about your products. You may not have any money, but if you have a few spare items to give away, that may just do the trick.

Influencer marketing

This means asking people who are pretty well known within a niche to show off your products or give you a mention. It can be famous Instagrammers, YouTubers, bloggers or anyone else who has a dedicated and engaged following in your field. Learn more about how to hack it here.

Guest posts

The reverse concept is to have influencers come to you and bring their following along with them. Guest blog posts, videos, or testimonials from people in the field (or just famous people your target demographic like) can be a major win.

To find out who is writing and creating content in your field, you can use the tool BuzzSumo (you have a 14 day free trial, so get crackin’). When you put in keywords, it will show posts that are generating buzz on the internet, as well as the contact information for the people behind those posts. These are great people to contact in order to request a guest post.

User-Generated Content

Similarly, getting your customers to talk about your product is a very effective way to drive traffic. User-generated content (UGC) is the term for any content that you share for marketing purposes that was created by someone who used your product - reviews, ratings, photos, videos, tweets, etc.

There are services like Yotpo and Okendo which will charge a fair bit of a monthly fee to take care of all of your UGC generation and management for you. But if you’re hustling and don’t have the money to spend, set up automatic emails to go out after purchases requesting the type of content you are after, and give some sort of incentive to do so - like a discount code, sweepstakes entry or giveaway.

Press Coverage

Like the idea of influencer marketing, part of getting seen means getting someone else to talk about you to their following. The press is a great way to approach this, but it can be difficult to figure out exactly how to get covered for free.

Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered. Read this post about getting free press coverage.

Basically, getting press coverage means coming up with pitches that journalists will actually be interested in. The majority of the legwork will be:

  1. Identifying media professionals who would be interested in featuring you
  2. Giving them a good story and plenty of details to work with, but not spoon feeding them all their text. 
  3. Showing how you fit into a larger trend that journalists and bloggers are writing about
  4. Showing the value you add and unique sales proposition of your company

Getting press coverage is a particular skill, but just like any other, it is a marketing technique that can be learned.

Bonus Read: 20 Highly Effective Ways To Promote A Product

And an extra tip, join the Buzzfeed Sales Channel

Shopify store owners can add the Buzzfeed Sales Channel which puts your products at the hands of the ever-trendy Buzzfeed curators. If they like your stuff, they’ll stick it in one of their listicles that are seen by millions of shoppers every day. They take a commission, but it’s a great way to put your company front and centre.

Even if it’s not Buzzfeed, the approach here is to get your website on a list or marketplace that is already circulating. Look for websites that frequently write “The X Best Places To Visit In [Your City]” or other kinds of listicles that focus on promoting products, and contact them.

You’re a guerilla marketer, and we get it

Elkfox is here to help small and large e-commerce companies do more with Shopify. We value using resources wisely and investing in results. Read our blog and subscribe for more marketing tips, and talk to us about how we can help you grow.