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How to Build Meaningful Referral Traffic to Your Website

Michael Reynolds

Posted by Michael Reynolds on 8/2/16 9:30 AM


Website traffic, unlike regular traffic, is a good thing; high traffic to your blog or website means that there are a lot of people interested in what you have to offer, and it's a key component of inbound marketing. (High traffic on your drive home? Not so great.) 

There are a number of methods to generate traffic on your website; an organic search is one of the more reliable, successful ways to drive traffic your way, and you can harness the power of social media to get more eyes on your page, but what about referral traffic?   

Traffic Jam

SpinWeb President/CEO Michael Reynolds explored the topic of referral traffic on a recent episode of SpinRadio with our special guest co-host Tim Hickle from MilesHerndon.  Between the two of them, they've tried just about every method of directing traffic to their respective websites, and they're ready to speak candidly about their experiences with referral traffic. 

Referral traffic stems from a source outside of a search engine. Typically, it's reciprocal; you post something on a peer's blog, and they post something on yours. The idea is that you can direct their traffic to your website, hopefully resulting in fresh leads and conversions. 

But does it work?

You pour your heart and soul into a primo post, eager to show the other company's audience that you are a good and reliable source of information about your industry, and they should check out your website for more excellent information. You sit back and you wait, eager for the pageviews to come rolling in.  You wait. And wait. And wait. 

What's the deal? Why didn't your hard work pay off? 

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Clarify Expectations

Well, let's define what you hope to accomplish through referral traffic; are you looking for better SEO and increased traffic, or are you looking for solid leads? 

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, simply ensures that your website can easily be found through organic searching; ideally, a post on a partner's site or a mention in a publication will provide a wider range of people the ability to find your website. However, just because you increase the views on your website, it doesn't mean that the views are high quality—random people clicking through your website don't automatically result in leads. But carefully building your SEO through excellent content can help you bring in the leads and conversions you need to grow your business. 

Trial and Error

Tim shared some of the not-so-successful ways he's tried to steer referral traffic to his site. They gave the site a brief jump in traffic, and they might have helped with name recognition, but they didn't bring in the high quality leads he was looking for. 

  • Partner or Client Blogs — Tim said he's created content to be shared on the blogs of businesses in the industry or current clients in exchange for a post for his blog. Unfortunately, if the blog isn't getting a lot of traffic, it's not going to send a lot of new eyes to your page. Is it worth the time and effort you put into your post? Probably not. 

  • Work with Large Publications — While it might give you a thrill to see your company's name dropped in a major publication like the Huffington Post, it doesn't necessarily send droves of people to your website. Tim shared a story about his experience with the LA Times; they mentioned his company in a story, and while he got a short-lived traffic bump, it didn't last, and it didn't produce any results. 

  • Work with Niche Publications — Yes, it's nice to be featured in a big-name publication, but doesn't it make more sense to speak to the people who understand the industry? In theory, yes. In practice, you'll find that the folks who are reading the niche publications are other people who do what you do—in other words, they're your competitors, not your future customers. 

What Works?

Referral traffic isn't a lost cause; there are ways to make it mutually beneficial for you as well as the company with whom you choose to partner. But you must work strategically—here are some of the things that work for Michael and Tim.

  • Partner with a Company You Use
    As Michael said, HubSpot has been a great source of referral traffic for SpinWeb. It's kind of a "sister" publication—we're doing similar things, and we share an audience. HubSpot has created a community of marketers, and when we provide content for them, it brings us a stream of qualified traffic that has been very beneficial. If you're "platform agnostic", as Tim says MilesHerndon is, you can use traffic building to talk about your preferred platforms. 

  • Earn Mentions from Industry Publications
    Tim has had success in the past with creating something very specific and focused to pique the interest of big industry publications. If you can get them interested in your idea, they might feature you and your idea in an ariticle, creating a more perrenial and useful form of referral traffic. 

    Michael shared a story about one of SpinWeb's manufacturing clients who produced a series of simple problem-solving videos using specific equipment; an industry publication picked up the videos, linked to them, and all of the users on their end saw it. This video series became so popular, it was featured by Wistia as one of their high performing video campaigns. 

  • Paid Promotion
    While paid ads aren't usually the best approach—organic search results generate more traffic than anything else—sometimes it's worth it to get a link or some specific content in front of the people who will feature and publish you. Targeting a specific audience for paid ads works better than just throwing an ad out to the general public. 

Future Experiments

While we aren't ready to crown referral traffic as the best way to bring viewers to your website, we're not ready to give up on it, either. Larry Kim, former founder and CTO of Wordstream and current CEO of MobileMonkey, is using paid ads in an innovative manner that Michael's eager to try.

Essentially, paid promotion is used to target specific media influencers on social media. An article is generated to promote something interesting  that's happening with his company, and Larry sends it out to his list of media contacts; they become interested, and they'll write an article about it, generating a link to his company's website. It's simple to create a specific list on social media that will target only the reporters, tech writers, or bloggers that work within your area of expertise. 

Have you had any luck generating referral traffic to your site? Let us know in the comments below!

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Topics: google, seo, inbound marketing

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