OK, so this is purely for my intellectual curiosity and I'm not interested in illegal methods (no botnets please).

But say, for instance, that some organisation incentivised link sharing in a bid to drive publicity. How could I drive traffic to my link? Obviously I could spam all my friends on social networking sites, which is what they want me to do, but that doesn't sound as fun as trying to game the system. (Not that I necessarily dispute the merit of this particular campaign.)

The ideas I've come up with so far (in order of increasing deviousness) include:

  • Link-dropping - This is too close to what they want me to do to be devious, but I've done it here (sorry) and I've done it on Twitter. I'm subverting it slightly by focusing on the game aspects rather than their desired message.
  • AdWords - Not very devious at all, but effectively free with the vouchers I've accrued. That said, I must be pretty poor at choosing keywords, because I've seen very few hits (~5) so far.
  • Browser testing websites - The target has a robots txt which prevents browsershots from processing it, but I got around this by including it in an iframe on a page that I hosted.

But my creative juices have run dry I'm afraid. Does anyone have any cheeky/devious/cunning/all-of-the-above idea for driving traffic to my page?

  • Spamming ones own social network is about as cheeky as I've ever done. – Nate Jun 29 '11 at 12:02

I don't condone these methods and, naturally, would never use them myself, but — purely out of intellectual curiosity — here's what I came up with in a couple of minutes:

  1. Change the default homepage in Internet cafés/Apple Stores/airport kiosks/universities/offices etc. to use your link.
  2. Bid on a 'celebrity twitter auction', where winning bidders get their message retweeted by someone with a large following, and the proceeds go to charity.
  3. Be one of those losers who stands behind live TV presenters in public places with a link or phrase to search for painted on a giant sign.
  4. Tattoo http://bit.ly/yourlink onto your forehead.1 It might not generate much traffic2, but it would still prove a talking point 40 years from now.

Since all of these are sleazy, unthinkable, likely to land you in trouble, or simply juvenile and irritating, you might like to explore more traditional ways to drive traffic instead.

Like working hard for it, for example.

Or simply considering offline ways to promote online links and projects. It's easy to forget about real world promotional channels sometimes.

You may also wish to consider promoting products because they're genuinely interesting enough to deserve coverage, and not just because a company has jumped on the social bandwagon to incentivise link sharing with a stick and a carrot. Many companies see social media as a one-way path to free marketing when it has the potential to be much more than that. Don't reward those companies by proving them right.

'Dance, monkey, dance!' is the phrase that springs to mind whenever someone suggests that I promote something that benefits few for free. Think carefully about it. It's a slippery slope. Before you know it, you'll be wearing t-shirts with logos on them.

1: Please don't actually do this. I shouldn't have to say that, but this is the Internet, after all.
2: People are curious by nature. You might be surprised.

  • 1
    Re point 1 - a lot of people have done tattoos for advertising, but I'd have to be paid a lot more than they got, personally. Then again, if it was temporary... – Cyclops Jun 29 '11 at 14:33
  • You're right on the tattoo - I'd definitely get the URL and give it a look if I saw someone with a bit.ly tattoo on their head. – Andrew White Aug 30 '13 at 1:56
  • some pretty girl with a tattoo on hera back on the beach will definitely give more hits and may be some press coverage – vsingh Apr 24 '14 at 15:02

A few tricks I've used to get traffic:

Register as an advertiser on all the networks, e.g. AdWords, Facebook adverts etc. Usually you get a introductory bonus of a few tens of dollars. Also they sometimes do promotions. In December last year I got $100 free Facebook ads, valid just until the end of year. Make sure you've used all the free ads you can get before you pay for any.

Buy up expiring domain names that have some traffic and park them on top of your site. While it's expensive to buy them online, you can buy or rent used names from friends, family, colleagues or customers who aren't using them any more. Since they know you they might be willing to let you use the domain for a while on condition that they get it back later rather than them not renewing the registration and losing the name.

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