How to Grow Your First Website with No Money, No Brand, and No Connections. Best of all, you don’t even need money, a brand, or connections with these tips. Do a search for them right now and here’s what you’ll see: They’d prefer sales through their own website, of course. It’s working way better than a Google search for me. It’s meeting people face-to-face. Online marketing still comes back to people at the end of the day. You should still work on SEO for your site. That means partnering with others and doing whatever it takes to have them recommend your products, share your content, and link back to your site. You don’t do that by asking other people for help. What’s the best strategy you used to get a new website off the ground in the early days?
Everyone starts at ground zero.
Years ago, my first website was a job board, AdviceMonkey (like Monster.com).
I didn’t know anybody and I had no connections. Plus, I had very little money to sink into it.
But more importantly, I didn’t know anything about online marketing, either.
So it’s no surprise that the job board website didn’t make it. But, it led me to where I am today, teaching you how to avoid that the same mistakes I made.
If you follow my tactics below, you’ll hopefully be able to learn from my mistakes and slowly but surely start getting traffic and customers to your site.
Best of all, you don’t even need money, a brand, or connections with these tips.
You just need to understand what doesn’t work (so you don’t waste your time) and where to channel your energy instead.
Let’s take a look.
Don’t worry about advertising for now
Advertising is without a doubt the fastest way to bring in new customers.
Google AdWords, for example, is like a faucet. Throw down some money, turn the faucet on, and watch the leads pour in.
If you know what you’re doing and have access to capital, ads can skyrocket growth.
Except, in your case, that’s not going to work.
New businesses require a ton of cash just to get off the ground. Any left-over profit at the end of the day is probably already getting reinvested in inventory, contractors, new hires, and more assets that can expand your company’s footprint.
Which means you probably have little to no money to plow into ads.
You know what, though? That’s OK.
No money can be a powerful constraint. It forces you to get creative and stretch those existing dollars further. And it will also force you to change your strategy for getting a website off the ground.
For example, all your traffic in the early days will come from other people. And the faster you realize that the quicker you can get to work on activities that fuel the fire.
Let’s check out some of my favorite ways to get other people to send you traffic.
Start by getting referrals from other websites
Open up Google Analytics real quick and head over to your Acquisition report.
What do you see?
Probably that there are four primary ways people find your website right now:
- Direct: These are visitors who type in your URL directly into their address bar.
- Paid: Obviously, these are visitors from advertising campaigns.
- Organic search: These are visitors who find your pages and posts in search engines.
- Referrals: A referral is a visitor who finds you through links (like websites, blogs, social media, etc.)
Your options quickly run out when you run down that list. Direct isn’t very helpful because people don’t know you. There’s no leftover cash for paid campaigns. And you don’t even exist in the minds of search engines at this point (more on this later).
That leaves you with only one option: Referrals.
Somehow, someway, you need other people and other websites to talk about you, link to you, and send you traffic.
There are two things you need:
- Make yourself accessible in more places; and
- Give people a good reason to promote you.
You can accomplish the first by thinking through distribution.
For example, home decor store Walls Need Love saw their first steps of growth by simply listing products through other marketplaces. Do a search for them right now and here’s what you’ll see:
They’d prefer sales through their own website, of course. But in the early days, you need to hustle! And that often means working with other large platforms that already have the audience you so desperately need.
Case in point: 44% of all product searches start on Amazon!
They’re a massive, respected brand. And their free two-day shipping for Prime members doesn’t hurt, either. So people will naturally start there when looking for something new.
Amazon’s been incredible for my business,” said The Daily Fairy founder Emily. “I started selling on Amazon in October of 2015, and it’s doubled my sales. What that tells me is that there’s a whole slew of people who didn’t know I existed. It’s working way better than a Google search for me.
That’s why Walls Need Love will work with many of the major product marketplaces like Etsy, Wayfair, and Amazon (as long as they offer decent terms).
It gives them a new shot at getting their product out to prospective buyers and pulling in sales they would have otherwise not received on their own site (because these people are discovering them for the first time).
Many of these marketplaces can even help you advertise on their sites, too.
Wait — didn’t I say to forget about advertising?
Yes, but in this case, they might be willing to take a percentage of sales sold on their sites. That means you don’t pay a single cent upfront! Even better, you’re only paying for real sales (not just clicks or eyeballs).
So, in that case, it’s a win-win: You get the promotion (and credibility) you so desperately require, and they get a little something for promoting a new brand like you.
Revenue sharing agreements like this are common in all sorts of businesses, for both selling products and services. And it conveniently brings us to our second tip.
People need an incentive to care about your brand.
You might live and breath it, but nobody else feels that same passion (just yet). You need to give them a reason, like a cut of your revenue, or even a referral program.
For example, back in the day, PayPal blew up when it created a viral Refer-a-Friend campaign (in 2003!).
This simple yet effective tactic sent them over 100 million members with 7 to 10% daily growth.
Best of all, you don’t need fancy software or custom developers to set something like this up. For example, ReferralCandy is an ‘off the shelf’ tool that…