Modern digital marketing is easy. All you need to do is invest thousands and thousands of dollars in PPC, design, writers, infographics, and movie quality videos.
Oh, you don’t have that kind of money?
Not to worry. These three completely underrated traffic techniques won’t cost you a dime, unless you want them to.
1. Shoestring YouTube Videos
Even if all you have is a webcam, you can still make a YouTube video that gets hundreds of thousands of hits. A single video that costs no money and just a few hours of your time, can very easily pick up 1,000 or more views per month on YouTube. And that’s without any promotion on your own site or elsewhere.
On top of that, YouTube sends the most engaged traffic of any of the top social networks. It also tends to send traffic for much longer than most traffic sources since it is so perfectly designed for exploring its archives.
What many marketers fail to realize is that YouTube is still an incredibly non-competitive space. It’s like Google back in 2005 or so. It’s not all that hard to find a relatively common keyword phrase where literally nobody has created a video on the subject.
Even when the subject has been covered by others, YouTube is much friendlier to videos that don’t make the front page. More than Google, YouTube is designed for discovery. The right-hand sidebar of recommended videos provides a continuous trickle of traffic to even the most obscure videos on YouTube.
You can use YouTube’s own keyword tool to find out what people are searching for on YouTube.
On top of that, a major factor that plays a part in YouTube visibility is the popularity of the video. The more often people see the video, the more visibility it will get on YouTube. If you already have even a little traffic on your site, you can take advantage of this and embed the video. This will pump up your view count, which will in turn make you more visible on YouTube.
To hike up your view count even more, try to target keywords that show video results in Google. Finding these keywords is easy enough. All you need to do is type the keyword into Google to see if any video results show up. Then just take a look at the videos that turn up in these results to determine if you can compete with them, or at least provide a different kind of value to differentiate yourself.
There are a few different ways to produce a high-quality YouTube video with little or no money:
- A “talking head” video. All this takes is a webcam. Just sit in front of the camera and talk.
- A whiteboard video. Like Moz’s Whiteboard Friday, all it takes is a camera, a whiteboard, and you. Moz’s success with these proves that it doesn’t take a lot of bells and whistles to produce something useful and popular using this approach.
- A screencast. If what you’re talking about involves using a computer, you can use screen capture technology to show viewers what you’re doing on the computer while you talk about it. You can use a free tool like ezvid to accomplish this. You can upload the video straight to YouTube from ezvid.
- An interview or a discussion. Conversations are often much more interesting to watch than monologues. It doesn’t even have to be somebody influential (or even an expert) for it to make the video more interesting. If you can’t meet them in person, or don’t want to use a webcam to film two people in a room, you can simply record a Skype conversation.
A few pointers on making your videos valuable:
- Take a look at some of the other videos on the subject before you plan out your own video. You want to make sure that your video brings something unique to the table. While some of the talking points might be the same, your video should offer some kind of value that makes it unique, and more valuable for at least a subset of the population.
- You should probably have a list of talking points somewhere so you can easily see them while some improvisation can make the videos more human and fun to watch, you need to make sure you are covering everything your viewers need to know.
- Headlines are always important, but they’re even more important for YouTube. Be sure to use headline tactics like including a number in the headline, using more verbs and fewer nouns, using negative superlatives (never positive ones), telling users things they should avoid, use lists with odd numbers, and keep the title length to about eight words. Guides often work better when they use phrases like “The Beginner’s Guide,” “Introduction,” “DIY,” or “…in 5 Minutes.”
- Include some variation of your keyword in the title if at all possible.
- Use examples, anecdotes, quotes, and scientific studies to back up your point.
- Refer your viewers to a resource on your site that they can get if they subscribe with their email address. This is the key to getting actual referrals from your YouTube videos, as opposed to just views. Alternatively, you can ask for them to subscribe to your YouTube channel, but without an incentive, this is a less valuable option.
For more on YouTube marketing, I’d recommend taking a look at what Shopify has to say.
2. Quora Answers
Quora, the question and answer site, is still one of the most underrated places on the web to pick up traffic. Much like YouTube, it’s designed specifically to help people discover nuggets of wisdom hidden somewhere in the archives. The right-hand sidebar shows related questions that help obscure questions get found.
We’ve found that our activity on Quora mirrors YouTube in that referrals are very engaged, and that the traffic continues to trickle in for a very long time. While the numbers are rarely very big for any particular answer, the answers don’t take very long to write-up, and it’s easy to rack up a steady stream of referral traffic by simply answering more and more questions.
There are a few reasons why Quora is so useful in comparison to, say, Yahoo! Answers:
- The focus of Quora is on making questions reusable and “canonical.” With Yahoo! Answers, once the user who asked the question marks it as resolved, the question is “dead.” It basically falls out of view unless it has the good fortune of turning up in a Google search result. With Quora, when people ask a question, Quora shows similar questions, so that users don’t need to ask the same question twice.
- Since there are no “resolved” questions, you are free to answer any question that you like, and pick up referral traffic from these questions that will continue to show up again and again for new users.
- You can build up a score on Quora based on how people have rated your previous answers. This doesn’t just make you appear more credible. It also means that you can turn up in the “ask to answer” section for questions related to your areas of expertise. This means users can ask you direct questions.
- Answers are voted on by Quora users. If your answer is good, it will get voted up to the top where others can see it. At the same time, Quora doesn’t mark any of the answers as “best,” which encourages users to continue reading the other answers.
Here are a few ways you can make the most of Quora:
- Use images. One of the best features of Quora is the ability to paste images in your answers. The first image will show up as a thumbnail next to your answer. This catches people’s eyes and makes your answer stand out compared to the others. Well-chosen or even custom images make your answers more fun to read, and often more useful as well.
- Embed YouTube videos. Yes, you can embed YouTube videos in your Quora answers, and you don’t even need the embed code to do it. All you need to do is post the link to the YouTube page, and Quora automatically converts it. If you combine the YouTube marketing strategy discussed above with Quora, the results can be phenomenal.
- Answer questions early. While you can and should answer old questions occasionally, if you want to show up close to the top of the page, you should try to answer questions right when they come out. I’m not saying you should force the answer out and produce something low in quality, of course. I’m just saying to focus on new questions, since earlier answers are usually the ones that get upvoted.
- Think of your answers like mini-blog posts instead of blog or forum comments. (Actually, the same goes for your blog and forum comments.) Again, make sure you use sources to back up what you say.
- Submit real-name verification to your account, and respond promptly to any suggestions from moderators, so that your answers don’t get collapsed.
- Link your Quora account to your social networking accounts so that your answers show up on these social networks.
- Data from Eloqua suggests that a word count between 100 and 200 words is ideal.
Yet another severely underrated traffic source, Podcasts are a powerful way to build up a solid repeat audience. There are a few reasons for this:
- The barrier to subscription in iTunes is ridiculously low. All they need to do is hit a button.
- As with YouTube, the competition in iTunes podcasts is low except in music, entertainment, and general business, even though the iTunes audience is huge.
- Podcasts aren’t limited to iTunes. You can add your iTunes playlist to your blog, or upload them as YouTube videos to expand your reach. Be sure to add an iTunes subscription link or button to your blog posts and YouTube submissions using this as the URL: http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=YOUR-FEED-ID-NUMBER-HERE
As with YouTube and Quora, iTunes is yet another platform that’s designed for discovery. The search and browse features make it relatively easy for users to find new podcasts. There’s also a tab for related podcasts that users can easily access.
Unfortunately, unlike Quora and YouTube, the platform isn’t quite as good at putting users in touch with relatively obscure content.
On the flip side, it’s actually not all that difficult to make it into iTune’s “New & Noteworthy” section. In fact, Nick Lober explains how he did it without having an existing audience or any “celebrity” guest stars:
- He had an email audience of 11 people, and his interviews were with guests with a combined twitter following of only 860.
- To achieve the required number of downloads, he simply emailed everybody he knew with a custom email asking them to download the podcast and leave a review to help him out.
- Encouraging reviews is important. The quality of the reviews as well as the speed of the reviews influences whether the Podcast will stay visible. Don’t just ask for reviews when you email people. Ask them to leave a review at the end of the podcast.
- He launched with four podcasts ready, instead of one. More podcasts = more downloads and reviews. To maximize your chances for success, you may want to launch with even more podcasts.
A few pointers on creating high quality podcasts:
- Even more than with video, podcasts need a conversational element. You don’t necessarily need to interview somebody, but you should be having a conversation. Again, it doesn’t need to be a celebrity, or even an expert (although that helps). But even if they aren’t, having somebody there to bounce ideas off of is important. Monologues work for blog posts. They can work for video, because at least it has a visual element to keep it interesting. But for pure audio, you need somebody to talk to.
- People expect a relatively natural conversation when they listen to a podcast, but if they don’t learn something, you haven’t done your job. Come to the conversation prepared with a few talking points and a few resources.
- Sparring mind recommends spending $100 on an Audio-Technica AT2020, but that isn’t completely necessary. Your laptop mic or a $20 Logitech mic will get the job done, and you can always upgrade later.
So there you have it. These three traffic tactics don’t have to cost you anything, and the competition on these platforms is virtually nonexistent compared to more traditional platforms. So get out there and make a name for yourself.
(Image Credits – Featured image custom designed by author and Quora image taken from Quora.com)