Ask most marketers for their favorite traffic sources and you’ll probably hear the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Product Hunt and a few less well known others.
There’s a reason you hear the same traffic sources mentioned over and over again amongst marketers: they’re huge, easy to access and designed to make sharing and promoting content extremely easy.
They’re also crowded and, if you’re paying for traffic, expensive. Unless your content is really, really good, most people will ignore it in favor of the more interesting stuff.
Look beyond the most popular traffic sources and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to find websites that can provide you with tens of thousands of daily visitors, often at no cost, and often without the need to create something particularly engaging.
Last month, while heavily intoxicated on a Saturday night, I built a site in 20 minutes that currently receives 3,000 to 4,000 visitors per day.
Here’s the site. It’s completely pointless and ridiculous, designed to achieve nothing, poorly made and useless. It serves no purpose, and it doesn’t need to.
Despite this, it receives more visitors per day than far more useful sites receive per month and gives me a steady stream of Twitter followers and social mentions. It’s a fun, crazy project that, because of its design, attracts a surprising amount of traffic.
If I wanted to, I could sell it on Flippa for a few hundred dollars. Not bad for a site that was built in 20 minutes after more than a few drinks.
The reason for this constant flow of traffic is simple: I deliberately tapped into an untapped traffic source that few other marketers know about. This one source is responsible for 90% of the website’s traffic – about 100,000 visitors per month.
Looking outside the usual social media bubble
90% of Hardcore Prawn Lawn’s traffic comes from The Useless Web: a website that specializes in, well, useless websites. Click the button and you’ll be sent to a mix of hilarious He-Man songs, infinite loops and Nelson from The Simpsons laughing.
It’s completely pointless and stupid, but it gets millions of visitors a month, most of whom are searching for useless websites. I found it and saw an opportunity to get traffic from a source outside the usual Facebook/Twitter/Product Hunt bubble.
The traffic isn’t particularly engaged or valuable, but it’s still traffic. Thanks to the thousands of visitors I get from The Useless Web every day, I add a steady flow of followers to my Twitter account, growing my audience passively every day.
That means any future projects I launch reach more people. It also means that, if I ever get sick of hosting the website myself, I can sell it for a price that more than makes up for the small amount of time I spent on building it.
My point isn’t that you should build a useless website and submit it to The Useless Web – that isn’t something you can scale beyond a certain point – but that you can find surprisingly large sources of traffic where you least expect them.
In 2008, an online dating company built a hugely profitable empire by attracting users to its websites using lawn signs. Most marketers wouldn’t think of physical lawn signs as a source of traffic, but they built a $45 million a year business.
There are WordPress.com blogs (blogs with a .wordpress.com subdomain, not blogs built using the WordPress platform) that get hundreds of thousands of visitors per month. Get featured on them and you’ve found a loyal, interested new audience.
There are forums with hundreds of thousands of members. Get your site featured in a long thread with thousands of posts and you’ll receive a steady stream of visitors every month – often highly motivated and commercially valuable visitors.
If a website dedicated to lawn prawns can get tens of thousands of monthly visitors, a quality website that actually offers value can get far more. It’s all about finding the right source of traffic and looking outside the typical social media bubble.
How to find untapped, lucrative traffic sources
The key to finding untapped traffic sources is to think of websites that receive lots of traffic but are off the traditional marketing radar.
Here’s an example: Imgur.com receives tens of millions of unique visitors on a daily basis, but it’s never discussed by marketers in the same way that Reddit or Product Hunt are. With the right content, it’s an outstanding traffic source.
A popular image with your website’s URL in the bottom-right corner could, if it gets to the front page, generate more traffic than a link on a popular subreddit. A link on Quora can drive hundreds of highly qualified visitors to your website every day.
Look through the top sites on Alexa.com and you’ll notice that a lot of them are far outside the bubble of social networks and blogs that most marketers discuss. Each one is a potentially lucrative traffic source, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first.
Adopt the mentality that every website is a potential traffic source and you’ll find opportunities where you never noticed them before. From there, it’s a matter of building something that matches the traffic source you’ve discovered.
The more crowded Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other top traffic sources become, the harder it becomes for your content to get noticed. The solution is simple: focus on untapped traffic sources that have all of the traffic with none of the competition.
Discover the right ones and you’ll give your website a steady stream of visitors that, in some circumstances, can develop into a lucrative source of leads or ad income for your business, all without the competition or cost of the well known traffic sources.
EDIT: in June, 2016, Hardcore Prawn Lawn was sold on Flippa for $3,200USD.