The following article is a guest post by By Nancy Marshall, Principal, Nancy Marshall Communications.
I started doing public relations in the 1980s when we used a mimeograph machine to copy our press releases and then mailed them out in envelopes with postage stamps on them. Today we distribute them by email and share them on social networks. Have we come a long way since then or what?
The power of the internet to massively increase our public relations footprint has grown exponentially since the 1980s and is still growing every day. The challenge is to leverage the power of the internet with a well thought-out strategic plan that includes defining our messages, defining our audiences and figuring out the best methods to connect our messages with our audiences. Just because we have the ability to email a press release to thousands of journalists doesn’t mean that we should do so. That’s why it’s important to have a PR plan before you start spinning your wheels generating content and randomly disseminating it everywhere.
Today, I am going to share my 28 ideas about how to use PR to drive traffic to your website. Each and every day, the most important thing is to keep your website at the top of your own mind so you can explore new ways to share your web address. At the same time, be sure to keep your website content up to date, because the search engines do not want to send people to a site that is outdated or irrelevant.
Always be thinking about how to improve your site by adding new content that is remarkable, and watching the Google Analytics to see how people are using your site. The bounce rate is a key indicator as to whether your site is appealing to visitors or not. If you are spending time and money to send people to your site and they are immediately clicking away, you have a serious problem that needs to be corrected before you send more visitors to the site.
There are two main ways to generate traffic to your site: attracting them by having the optimized key words, and sending them there by having links from other sites or listing the URL on printed pieces. In this article, I’m going to address both: attracting visitors and driving visitors to your website.
Here are my 28 ideas, and I’m sure you’ll have plenty of your own ideas once you get the creative juices flowing!
- Press releases sent to business publications and shows on TV and radio, including a link to your website. Make sure you are announcing something newsworthy such as hiring a new employee, or winning an award, or making a speech at a significant trade show or conference. Also make sure you are targeting the kind of media that will be interested in your press release. Business publications will be interested in business announcements, for example.
- Press releases are great, but it’s even better if you can use a press release to get a journalist to do a feature story on you or your business. A feature story is an article in a newspaper or a magazine, or a story on radio or TV that will ideally include a link to your site. If there is no link, some people will still become more interested in you and Google search you. Either way, feature stories are a great way to tell your story in the media and raise your profile. In order to get a feature, you need to send a very good press release to the right reporter, editor or producer and pique their interest in the story you have to tell. Usually, you also need to place a follow up phone call to pitch your idea. In the tourism industry, getting a story in the Sunday Travel Section of a major newspaper is a major coup. Typically these stories include what we call a “service bar” which is a sidebar that includes all the contact info including phone number, postal address, physical address and web address.
- Your business cards, letterheads and other printed materials should always include your web address. You might even consider having a QR code with a direct link to your site. That’s what we do on our business cards at Nancy Marshall Communications.
- Make sure your email signature includes a link to your website. You’d be amazed how many people will click through after they read your email message!
- Branded giveaways are a great way to literally put your web address on peoples’ walls (calendars), in their hands (pens and pencils), on their desks (calculators, thumb drives and coffee mugs) or in their cars (travel mugs, ice scrapers). I have a wall calendar from my chiropractor that I look at every day, and it reminds me to contact him if my neck or back start feeling out of whack.
- Trade shows are an ideal place to promote your website. The web address should be prominently displayed on your trade show booth and in all your promotional materials. If you are exhibiting at a trade show, there will be members of the media in attendance. Frequently there will be a media room at the show where you can leave press kits or giveaways such as pens, water bottles and coffee mugs. Make sure your web address is on every single item that you give away at trade shows.
- Speaking engagements at Rotary, Kiwanis and Chamber meetings as well as college classes are an ideal place to talk about your website and give out the web address. If you are using a PowerPoint presentation, include the web address on every slide. Every time I do a speaking engagement, I write a press release about my appearance and send it to the local media, which is yet another opportunity to include a link to my website.
- Guest posts on other peoples’ blogs (like this one that you are reading now!) are a great place to provide a link to your site. I also have a blog at www.maineprmaven.com, which is another site that I promote whenever possible.
- Submit your blog posts to social bookmarking sites such as Reddit, Stumbleupon and Digg.
- Take advantage of local search. Google + Local are a great ways to make your site more findable by local audiences.
- Produce videos to be posted on YouTube including keyword-rich text descriptions. YouTube is great place to include a link to your site. Did you know that YouTube is the second most popular search engine next to Google? That’s because people love to watch videos when they want to know how to do something or they want to know about something. As a society, we are reading less than ever, unfortunately. Your third grade teacher would be disappointed that you would prefer to watch a video to learn something new rather than going to the library to get a book about it.
- Guest opinion columns in the newspaper about relevant timely topics can include a biographical backgrounder on you as the author, including a link to your website.
- Facebook posts on your own page and on other peoples’ pages can include a link to your site, but be careful. You need to interact with others in a very human way, and not always be promoting to your own site, or people will see right through what you’re doing. A mix of posts that are social and human, along with one post a week with a link to your own site will work. My strategic partner Stephen Woessner’s book, ‘Increase Online Sales through Viral Social Marketing,’ (available at amazon.com) lays out an exact formula for the balance between social posts and promotional posts.
- Pinterest is a fast-growing social network, particularly among women. If you pin an interesting photo on one of your Pinterest boards that links back to your site, people will click through to see where that photo came from. For example, I saw this wonderful photo on Pinterest of a breakfast at a Maine B&B, The Pomegranate Inn in Portland, Maine. I was curious about it, so I clicked through to their website, which is equally wonderful to look at, and I thought to myself that I would like to go there someday soon (especially since my PR agency handles PR for the Maine Office of Tourism!)
- Twitter is a great place to include links to your site, although you might want to use them as ow.ly links so you can reduce the number of characters. (Google the term “ow links” for an explanation if you are unfamiliar.)
- Use Instagram to drive traffic from photos to your site. Be sure to completely fill out the online profile to close the loop from your photos back to your website.
- LinkedIn is a great place to establish yourself as an expert, and to make important professional connections. You can list your web address right in your LinkedIn profile.
- Event sponsorship allows you to create banners and give branded giveaways promoting your business name and web address to a targeted audience. Consider a business-to-business trade show, an arts performance, a sporting event, or even the walls at your local Major League Baseball or even the Little League stadium. Align the sponsorship with your targeted audience.
- Charitable donations position you as a responsible and philanthropic neighbor. When you make a donation, the charity will help you promote your business in their event programs, their annual giving guides or in thank-you speeches at their annual meetings. We work with the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville, Maine as a client, and I donate to them throughout the year. They are sure to promote my URL, www.marshallpr.com, whenever possible.
- If you are in the business of building websites for others, be sure to include a link back to your own website at the bottom of the home page. We build websites for businesses and nonprofits of all kinds, and we always embed a link on the home page of every one.
- Put your web address on your clothing: logoed clothing is a great way to build your wardrobe, whether it’s on the front of a golf shirt, a hoodie sweatshirt, a baseball cap or a ski hat. Give fleece vests emblazoned with your logo and URL to all your employees. They will wear it with pride and promote your web address everywhere they go.
- Ask the CEO of your company to write an article (or offer to ghostwrite for him or her) to post on a blog or submit to the local newspaper or business journal. If you’re the CEO, try to make this a regular practice. Be sure to include a bio at the end of the article with a link to your website. Post the article on your own company’s blog too, because it will be rich in keywords.
- Create infographics and post on social media sites. Infographics are all the rage right now as an easy, graphical place to explain a concept. You will need a professional graphic designer to create them, and you can either hire a designer to serve on your staff or outsource to a freelancer. There are freelancers available online through sites like 99designs.com that can create infographics cost effectively. People are more likely to share infographics than other types of content through social networks. Be sure to include your website address and company name in the infographic and post it on your website, as well as sharing it on Facebook, Pinterest and other social networks.
- Network with influencers the old-fashioned way at trade shows, chamber of commerce meetings and conferences. Meet people in person, exchange business cards, then connect with them on social media in order to maintain the relationship until you see them again. The more influential people who you link with on LinkedIn, or friend on Facebook, or follow on Twitter, the better. They call this practice “pressing the flesh,” and it is, in my opinion, the best possible way to create meaningful and long-lasting relationships.
- Generate links back to your site from websites that have ‘authority,’ such as college and university sites and governmental sites, by figuring out ways to post content or get articles written with links to your site. Google and other search engines consider the ‘authority’ of websites when viewing the links to your site. If a site with a great deal of authority links to your site, that’s like an endorsement of your site, so it’s a good thing.
- Create an e-newsletter and constantly build your list. We publish “The NMC Report” once a month, no matter how busy we are with other commitments. We include tips and techniques that are easily implemented by our readers, who are typically small business owners or marketing officers for companies and nonprofits. We make it easy to sign up for the e-newsletter on our website and we are constantly gathering names at trade shows and conferences. This list is valuable to our business because these are people who don’t mind having us market ourselves to them. Every single time we send out an e-newsletter, we see a spike in our web traffic because we include links throughout the e-news back to our website. We use Mail Chimp but we also recommend Constant Contact.
- Share your PowerPoint presentations and other slide decks to sites like Slideshare and Scribd. This is a fantastic way to position yourself or someone from your organization as an expert and to generate a quality link back to your website.
- Build a rock-solid reputation to generate word of mouth. The #1 absolute best way to drive traffic to your website is to do great work so people will refer you to others. This is, by far, the most powerful form of marketing and public relations.
Nancy Marshall, also known as The Maine PR Maven, has been practicing PR professionally for 30 years. She owns Nancy Marshall Communications, an agency in Augusta, Maine specializing in producing and implementing strategic marketing communications plans, called The Marshall Plan™. Her agency blog is at www.maineprmaven.com, and her agency’s website is at www.marshallpr.com. Nancy was the 2011 winner of the Edward L. Bernays Award from the Maine Public Relations Council for the state’s most accomplished PR professional. She is married and has two sons who are accomplished ski racers.
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