“Referral traffic” is used to describe visits that come to your site from links on other sites, not including search engines. All marketers should have a strategy to increase their referral traffic. That’s because when you increase your referral traffic, you:

  • Get your content in front of new people and potential customers
  • Supplement the traffic you enjoy from search engines and advertising
  • Potentially increase your conversion rate, because referral traffic that comes from a trusted source may be likelier to convert on your site

What’s more, incoming links from quality sites do more than just drive referral traffic. They’ll help you rank in search engines. In fact, according to Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, the top two ranking factors are content, and the links pointing to your site.

Beware of Linking Schemes

While quality incoming links can boost your rankings, employing the wrong set of link building tactics can backfire. Google frowns on links they consider “unnatural” or manipulative. Proceed with caution or you could risk a Google penalty that hurts your rankings.

So how can you increase your referral traffic the right way, without risking your standing on search engines? You’re about to find out. In this post, here are 20 proven tactics to boost your referral traffic.

Content

Create Quality Content

Let’s start with the obvious. The first step to increasing referral traffic is to consistently create unique, relevant and high-quality content. Content marketing will be the foundation for all your link building efforts. In Google’s words, “creating good content pays off: links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.

One-Up Existing Content

When you decide to write about a topic, use a tool like BuzzSumo to find other content that’s been written on the topic, and which has earned a large number of incoming links. Then, write your own version of that post, but make it even better and up to date. You’ll want to follow this up with some outreach. More on this below.

increase referral traffic by conducting researchConduct Proprietary Research

I speak from experience: content creators are always hunting for statistics that lend credibility to their offerings or back the points that they’re making on their blog. Do you have proprietary research data that would be of interest to your industry? Package it up as a PDF or infographic and share it on your site. Sites that reference your study will usually link back to your site.

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increase referral traffic infographic

Create Infographics

Think infographics are passé? Think again. Studies have shown that infographics are “liked” and shared on social media 3X more than any other type of content. Take advantage of that trend by producing quality infographics. Include an embed code on your page to make it easier for people to insert your infographic on their own site and link back to your as the source. The Siege Media free embed code generator simplifies the process for you.

increase referral traffic with a free toolCreate a Free Tool

And speaking of Siege Media’s embed code generator, there’s a lesson there too. Producing free tools like that one is a great way to create quality links to your site. See how I linked to that utility in my last tip? Well, according to my research, my site is now one of hundreds that link back to the embed code generator. That has to be giving a nice boost to Siege Media’s organic rankings.

Outreach

increase referral traffic outreach sharersReach Out to Sharers of Similar Content

Once you’ve invested all that time in creating top-quality content, don’t just sit back and rely on search engines to help people find it. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find:

    • Sites that link to similar content content
    • Influencers that have shared similar content on their social channels

Reach out to those site owners and sharers to let them know about your piece. Check out my post on how to scale influencer outreach on Twitter for a helpful roadmap and tools.

increase referral traffic guest post

Guest Post

Guest posting on quality sites that cater to your ideal audience has great potential for driving incremental referral traffic to your site. Reach out to the sites you admire in your niche, and propose some topics you could write about.

If you aren’t widely published, the site owners you approach may hesitate to accept your content, sight unseen. You can allay their concerns by showing them samples of articles you’ve already written.

Another strategy is to offer them a post that you’ve already written but not yet published anywhere. That approach is a little risker and work intensive, but if it gets your foot in the door with a site you covet, it will be well worth it.

increase referral traffic link mentions

Turn Unlinked Brand Mentions into Links

The art and science of link building continue to evolve. Today, there’s reason to believe that unlinked mentions of you brand can enhance your site’s reputation in the eyes of search engines and potentially boost rankings. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still seek links. 

In fact, existing unlinked mentions of your brand are the low-hanging fruit of link building. All you have to do is contact the webmaster of the site who’s mentioned you, and suggest that they also link to you. This simple guide on Ahrefs will walk you through the specific steps.

Influencer Marketing

increase referral traffic cite influencersCite Influencers

When you write your blog posts, get into the habit of citing experts on your topic and influential people in your industry. For example, you could quote relevant statements they’ve made or link to books they’ve written. Once your post has been published, reach out to the influencers with a link to your post, and let them know you’ve mentioned them. With any luck, they’ll link to or share your post.

increase referral traffic profile expertProfile Influencers

You can take influencer marketing a step further by writing an entire profile around an influencer in your space, then letting them know you’ve done it. Let’s look at an example of how this might work.

Let’s assume you’re a contractor who specializes in home renovations. Your ideal customers are homeowners who aspire to improve their homes. A good strategy might be to profile an influential local interior decorator with a big social following. Why? because if you do a good job, those decorators will share your profile. And when they do, all the homeowners who follow them will now know about you, and may well consider you for their next home renovation project.

increase referral traffic expert roundupsWrite an Expert Roundup

Another great influencer marketing strategy is to produce an expert roundup. Think of an expert roundup as a sort of influencer marketing package deal. Come up with an intriguing question that your ideal customer would be interested. Then, reach out to a number of influencers in your space and ask them that question. In your roundup article, you’ll essentially be showcasing your experts and their answer to your question. A roundup can benefit you in a number of ways – not only are the influencers you’ve surveyed likely to link to/share your post, but your highly authoritative piece is likely to earn links from others in your industry.

Social Media Marketing

Although there is some dispute over whether Google considers social in their rankings, social media marketing nonetheless offers significant traffic-boosting benefits. In fact, 78% of marketers report that their social media efforts have increased their website traffic.

increase referral traffic blog commentsShare your Post on Social Media

Every time you write a post, make sure to share it on your social channels. And don’t limit yourself to a single post. Use a tool like Smarterqueue to post your evergreen content in a rotation over time.

increase referral traffic facilitate sharing

Make Sharing Easy for Others

Invite your readers to share your content, by:

  • Prominently displaying share buttons above each post
  • Embedding Click to Tweets
  • Using open graph meta tags in all your posts. Don’t forget attention-grabbing images custom sized for each social network
  • Adding hidden Pinterest images to your post to make it easy for visitors to Pin your post

increase-referral traffic social profile

Seize Every Opportunity

Grab every opportunity to put your URL in front of your social followers. Place your URL in your social profiles, descriptions, About page, etc. Matthew Woodward does an excellent job of detailing some of these opportunities in this post.

Other Link Building Tactics

increase referral traffic broken link buildingBroken Link Building

Broken link building is a favourite tactic among professional link builders. Use a tool like AHrefs.com to scour your competitors’ sites and other related blogs for broken links with a high number of quality incoming links. Use the Wayback Machine to see the content that used to exist at each address, then produce a better version of that contact. Finally, contact the webmasters of the sites that link to the deprecated content, pointing out the broken link and suggesting your page as an alternative to link to.

increase referral traffic web directory

Web Directories

Getting listed in Web directories can be a great way to build links to your site. But be discriminating. Avoid spammy directories. Instead, find trusted online directories that serve your niche and geographical market.

increase referral traffic comment on blogs

Comment on Blogs

Another effective tactic to increase referral traffic is to follow high-traffic blogs in your niche and leave comments on their posts. Neil Patel ran a test. He left 249 comments on other people’s blogs and measured the impact. His comments resulted in close to 4,000 visitors and $25,000 in customer revenue. Here too, you’ll have to be judicious. Focus on niche blogs that cater to your ideal customer, and which allow links in their comments. Make your comments relevant and thoughtful.

increase referral traffic forums

Participate in Forums

Participating in community forums is a link-building tactic that Google actually recommends. From the horse’s mouth: “If your site is rather new and still unknown, a good marketing technique is to get involved in the community around your topic. Interact and contribute on forums and blogs. Just keep in mind to contribute in a positive way, rather than spamming or soliciting for your site.”