PubCon 2008 Takeaways (1/3) – Driving Traffic to Your Websites

A few of us at eBay Partner Network attended the 2008 PubCon Conference Nov 11-14 in Las Vegas. If you haven’t attended one of their past conferences, PubCon sessions are designed to give tips to publishers on how to improve and drive traffic to their websites.  We found this year's PubCon to be especially interesting, with multiple sessions on content generation and management, driving traffic to your websites, and effective affiliate strategies.

We’re going to do a series of blog posts in the next couple of weeks with some of our biggest learnings that we thought might be helpful to you our affiliates.

In several sessions with titles like “SEO on a Shoestring Budget” and “Link Strategies”, we walked away with some interesting tips on interesting ways drive traffic to your sites that went beyond your typical formatting your website to get picked up by search engines.  Check these out:

  • Find out who’s linking to your competitors.  Use a tool like like Yahoo’s Site Explorer to see where other sites are getting their traffic.  See if you can also get links from those sites.
  • Take advantage of broken links to related sites.  Ask the original website to re-direct the link to you, or contact the destination site and ask them if they’ll re-direct to your pages.
  • Find brand mentions and ask for a link.  Do a search for your brand.  Find people that are talking about you but aren’t linking to you and see if they can add a link to you.
  • Write fresh content on popular subjects or products relevant to your website that will be picked up by search engines.  You can look up popular subjects on Technorati, Digg, Google Trends, and our own eBay Pulse.
  • Submit your website to directories.  Directories like DMOZ and BestOfTheWeb are still used by some users to navigate and also get indexed by search engines.  You can submit your site to them.  You may have to pay some of them to review your site, but if you meet their criteria several will add you for free.  Beware of fly-by-night directories as they typically get de-indexed by search engines
  • Put out press releases.  Agencies like PRWeb can help you get news and interesting developments that are fresh content and might get picked up by journalists or search engines themselves.  Insert links back to your site from these.  There was a good case study mentioned in the conference about Southwest Airlines.  They change fares all the time and put out special deals.  Journalists can’t/won’t keep up with every little bit of news, but they started to put out more direct press releases as part of a new PR strategy.  The more frequent releases got picked up by search engines and travel deals sites which gave more inbound links.
  • Build a press hub on your site.  Make it easy for journalists or anyone who wants to write about and find out about you to get the latest news and information about your website or business (obviously this is more helpful the bigger you are and the likelier it is that people will write about you).
  • Submit your site for awards.  If you win them they can be valuable links in from reputable sources that will increase your SEO ranking, plus give you valuable inbound traffic from the award sites themselves.
  • Participate in Usenets and forums.  Used properly they can be qualified traffic producers, but always check the terms of service to see if putting any links to your site is acceptable.
  • Build a community for your site.  A community can help you generate fresh, on-going content for your site and in some cases help you get better SEO rankings.  But note that it takes significant time and effort to manage a constructive and productive one.
  • Leverage your local connections! Submit information about your website or your business to local newspapers and chambers of commerce.  Many are interested in talking about and highlighting businesses in their community and will put valuable links to your site.

Finally, remember to build websites for users, not search engines.  Always think – “what would I do if there were no search engines?".  This does not mean you just build a site without thinking about search engines.  You essentially build for two user agents: people and crawlers.

Vanessa Fox of Nine by Blue has an insightful way to think about it SEO and linking strategies: don’t try to build sites that try to game or optimize natural search ranking algorithms.  Algorithms will always change.  Instead, build your strategy based on what the algorithms are trying to accomplish.  That won’t change anytime soon.  Check out her March 19, 2008 and March 24, 2008 posts on link building, we found them really insightful.

You may already be using some or many of these ideas, but hope these spurred a few more thoughts you.  We’ll post more PubCon takeaways over the coming couple of weeks.

Good luck boosting traffic to your sites!

The eBay Partner Network Team