The problem is that a small new website can never realistically hope to compete with the established giants for that top spot, unless we focus on an extremely narrow niche with very specific keywords.
The solution is to stop worrying so much about backlinks and SEO – and to drive traffic to your website in ways that don’t depend on the search engine giants.
1. Social media
It might be the most obvious tool for driving traffic, but social media is popular for a reason… Any official Facebook page or Twitter feed needs to be updated regularly with useful, interesting or amusing content.
Anything goes here, as long as it’s relevant to your chosen niche – you don’t want to dilute your own message.
Do everything you can to encourage engagement, as your brand or product will be seen by more people every time your content is liked, shared, retweeted or commented on. Competitions are perfect for generating customer interaction.
Perhaps the best thing about social media is the potential for your content to go viral. If it does, relatively unknown individuals and websites can suddenly receive hundreds of thousands of visitors, thanks to the almost limitless power of social media.
2. Guest blogging
Many of the most popular blogs on the web accept guest posts from people who can provide a new insight into the blog’s niche. Guest blogging is a great way to get a boost from someone else’s success, as it helps to establish your position as an authority in your niche, as well as providing a potentially powerful backlink.
Most importantly, a good guest post will send a sudden influx of people to your website, all of whom will be actively interested in what you’ve got to offer. Guest posts are essentially highly targeted adverts that won’t cost you anything.
3. Blog commenting
An old one but a good one: another way to use some of the biggest blogs to your advantage is to comment on them. You need to read the post first and only comment if you have something genuinely valuable to add to the discussion.
As you’re not trying to build backlinks here, don’t always include one in your comments – blatant self-promotion is unlikely to go down well and could easily backfire.
Use your real name when you comment and only ever link to the most relevant content on your website, which won’t normally be your homepage.
A small but significant percentage of those who read your comments will click through to your site, and your name will slowly become more widely recognised in the extremely influential blogging community.
You’ll probably also find it easier to land those lucrative guest posts if you’ve already built up a relationship with some of the biggest bloggers.
With a little imagination, YouTube can generate a good amount of traffic for almost any website. If in doubt, a tutorial video is probably the best place to start, especially if you’ve got an idea for a how-to video up your sleeve that hasn’t been done before.
Enough people will be searching for solutions to their problems, in even the most obscure of niches, to make tutorial videos worthwhile. YouTube is second only to Google when it comes to total monthly searches, so overlooking it would be a big mistake.
5. Utilise your contacts
Make sure everyone you’re in contact with knows about your website, Twitter feed, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and so on.
Friends and family will probably be supportive and many of them will be willing to help you out if they can. Your website will grow far faster if you get other people involved from the start than if you choose to do everything alone.
Adding a link to your website in your email signature can also prove surprisingly productive. Those endless emails you send will now serve a dual purpose, and for the amount of effort it takes to change an email signature, even a very low conversion rate would make it worthwhile.
6. Yahoo Answers
Lots of online entrepreneurs look down their noses at sites like Yahoo Answers, but with thousands of questions being asked on a daily basis, it won’t take long to find something relevant that you can answer.
All you have to do is reply with some useful information and include a link to your site. This might only earn you one new customer or follower at a time, but a few extra people here and there can add up quickly for a fledgling website – although it might not be worth the effort for larger, more well-established sites.
7. Link to other bloggers
Sending a fraction of your traffic to a competitor may seem counter-intuitive at first, but every time you link to another blogger (on your own blog, in a Facebook post or anywhere else), they’ll be sure to sit up and take note.
These bloggers are likely to direct their own audience to your website in turn, even if it’s just a quick self-promotional tweet about you, saying how great they are. Regardless of why an influential blogger links to your site, that link is the crucial foot in the door that you need to expand your reader base.
8. Get involved in forums
Almost every niche you can imagine has at least one dedicated online forum. Once you’ve found a forum relevant to your niche, you can set about becoming part of the community.
Using forums to drive traffic is all about playing the long game, so provide good information, entertain other users and avoid spam at all costs.
Once you’ve built up a reputation, you’ll find that more and more people head over to your site through the links in your forum profile and signature.
Once you’re widely recognised on a forum and you’ve earned the trust of the regulars, you can also start adding links to your site in a few of your posts, but only if you feel that they’ll add something to the discussion.
All of the techniques above have the potential to drive significant traffic to your website, but you’ll need to experiment for yourself and try various different strategies to find exactly what works for you.
Search engines may still be king, but there are now so many alternatives out there that you need never rely on Google and its potentially devastating updates again.