Should I pay someone to get traffic to my online business?
I have a very small business on the internet selling hand-drawn portraits. I only need about 2 or 3 orders a day, which I calculate would require about 8,000 unique visitors per week to my site. Some companies offer to send traffic to your site for as little as 50 dollars. I have very little money to spend on advertising, and I don't know if it would be possible to get thousands of hits without paying for advertising or professional internet marketers. What would you do in this situation?
Most of those companies are shills who will gladly take your money and drive a slew of useless traffic at your site. You may get that 8,000 visits a day, but you won't have the conversion rates you need to get the orders you want.
Worse yet, if one of the main search engines identifies the site of that company as selling that traffic as a "Link farm" their traffic will drop due to reduced search result ranking.
Here are some better options:
Watermark any images you put online so it's harder for people to steal them and claim they're their own.
Create or participate in a Yahoo Group about the kind of art you do. Use your site URL in your profile and use an @yourdomain e-mail address for the account.
Place ads in the appropriate areas of free sites like craigslist.
Sign up for a Google Analytics account and use the tools it offers to examine your site and see what you can do to optimize your site.
Create an XML site map and link to it appropriately from your robots.txt
Read the guidelines from the big search engines like Yahoo, Google and MSN to see how you can build the site to better fit the kind of site they WANT to index. This is a good idea, because those guidelines are a blueprint for techniques that search engines SUPPORT.
Buy some Google Adwords. If you've already optimized the site and you pick good adwords, you'll see a higher conversion rate than two to three orders out of 8,000 visitors
Offer Valentine's Day discounts under the condition the orders are placed before a certain date.
Post pages from your site to places like Digg and del.icio.us
Advertise Burlesque portraits as a gift for a woman to give her man.
Do a few "Traffic Draw" portraits. Foe example, do a burlesque of Deanna Trio from Star Trek and post it to Digg.com. Depict a sports hero in a Romanesque or Gladiatorial pose and post it to a forum for fans of the sports star's team.
Design an attractive t-shirt that advertises your site, get it printed and wear it around town.
If you drive, put the URL on a bumper sticker and slap it on your car.
You're on a budget, there's no reason to cough up cash when there are so many free or low cost advertising options out there.