It’s your biggest fear.

Pouring yourself into building something that's met with that uncomfortable feeling of silence.

Nobody reads your blog.

Nobody buys your product.

Only your mom and your spouse visit your website.

It's something we all fear before we launch our websites. It's scary to pour your energy into something knowing it may never take off.

But what if I told you that there is a process that you can use to launch your website so this doesn't happen?

A process to get in front of the eyes of an audience right away. I

t's true. And the quicker you build an audience, the quicker you can make an impact on people’s lives and build a meaningful lifestyle business doing what you love.

Unsettle launched on January 5. Since then, I've had at least half a dozen emails from readers asking about my launch plan.

After all, I managed to score 3,267 views on my first day, which is not bad for a blog.

But my launch wasn't perfect, and while I did have some success, I learned many lessons as well. Here is exactly what I did to launch Unsettle, the mistakes I made, and what I would do differently if I were to be granted a do-over.

If you do the work before your site officially launches, you'll be at a huge advantage right off the bat. This is part two of a series of blog posts about launching.

You will need to set up a framework before you use the training in this post, and you can find that framework in Part 1: How to Launch Your Website for Instant Success: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide. After you have those things in place, it's time to start driving high converting traffic to your website (for free).

Step 1: Prepare for the Catch

In part one of this series, we established that your only goal for your launch should be to convert as many people as possible into email subscribers, who will then become your tribe and audience.

When I first published my landing page, I saw a conversion rate of around 8%. That’s not a bad conversion rate, but wouldn’t 35% be far better? At 35%, 35 out of 100 visitors subscribe rather than 8.

And since you're putting all that effort into drive traffic to your landing page, why not benefit more from it? In my conversion research, I stumbled upon a hack to collect more emails, build a bigger tribe, and launch with a bang: build an opt-in offer.

An opt-in offer is something (usually a report, PDF, free eBook or some sort of exclusive content) you give your subscribers in exchange for their email address.

how to get traffic to a website

These can be called “bribe to subscribe” “lead magnets”, or opt-in bribes. Offering a “lead magnet” does quadruple duty by:

  • Giving people content they want (providing value)
  • Getting them used to your style and personality
  • Making them more excited for your launch
  • Helping you collect more subscribers.

I wish I created an opt-in offer before my launch. Instead, I released my opt-in offer on launch day, so I probably left hundreds of loyal subscribers on the table. Don't make the same mistake I did.

Create a short eBook, manifesto, checklist, report, case study, workbook, or even just a one-page document with your favorite tools. Here are a few things that make a great opt-in offer:

  • It’s easy for you to create (you don’t have to slave over a 40 page eBook)
  • It’s highly related to your topic: My first opt-in offer was a report about my favorite productivity tools, which was a mistake. Everyone is interested in productivity – not just Unsettlers. The people that ended up on my list weren’t the ones I wanted. They weren’t interested in Unsettling and building meaningful careers.
  • It solves a problem: If you’re starting a website about pets, what do you think is the most compelling opt-in offer?: “5 Reasons to Love Your Dog!” or “6 Secret Tools to Stop Your Dog from Barking and Driving the Neighbors Crazy”? Probably the latter. After all, it solves a problem – one that people would gladly provide their email addresses to solve.
  • It has a great headline: Like with blog posts, the only thing drawing people into reading your opt-in offer is its headline. Practice writing 25 headlines for the opt-in offer. Headline Hacks by Jon Morrow at Boost Blog Traffic is a great resource for headline information.
  • It gives a sneak peak:  Give people a peek at what to expect. This is easy if you use Leadpages. If it’s a report, show the cover page or a blurred image of one of the pages. If it’s a short eBook, show the cover graphic. You can use Adazzle to create an image of an eBook for free. If it’s a manifesto, blur it out, but show part of the content. Make people want to know more.

My best opt-in offer is my free email course which helps people find an idea for a lifestyle business.

how to launch a website landing page

I asked my audience what they were struggling with, and so many of them told me they were struggling with finding the perfect idea. It took me about 12 hours to create the course, which consists of 7 emails dripped out using Aweber over 14 days find an idea for a business they'll love based on their skills and interests.

It converts very well, because it helps my tribe with a problem they have. You don’t have to take it this far, though. First, start with something small, like a list of tools.

Offer something that'll only take you an hour to create. It's very easy with Leadpages to deliver the opt-in offer when people sign up for your list.

You can either send it to them after they confirm their subscription with Aweber or have Leadpages deliver it by setting up a Lead Magnet Delivery function where it's just emailed to your new subscriber when they type in their email automatically. After you have an opt-in offer, you need to drive traffic to it.

Step 2: Drive Traffic to Your Landing Page

The purpose of building a launch plan is to build your audience through your email list. So, you need to drive traffic to your landing page to convert the traffic into email subscribers. Here are a few ways you can do that:

1. Create a Buzz on Social Media (Even If You Don't Have a Following)

Whether you have a hundred followers or a thousand, social media is a great tool for generating buzz around your launch. Here are a few ways to do this:

Tweet it out

Before I launched, I would casually mention Unsettle on Twitter, and even when I didn't put a link in the Tweet each mention would bring in anywhere from 5-20 new subscribers.

I had fewer than 1500 followers, but you can do this even if you only have a few.

It doesn't have to be complicated. Just tell people what you're up to! Here's the process that I used:

  1. Use Tweriod to analyze what time of day your followers are most active
  2. Set up a Buffer schedule based on those times
  3. Schedule up to 10 posts in advance (for Buffer's free account). Test one with a link to your landing page, one without (make sure you have a link in your Twitter bio), and different wording
  4. Let Buffer send out the Tweets, then go into Buffer and press the “Analytics” tab
  5. Hover your mouse over the most popular Tweets and re-buffer them
  6. Sit back and let the targeted traffic roll in.

You can Tweet out the same thing on Twitter here and there because only a few of your followers see each Tweet you push out.

Harness The Power of Facebook

Facebook is super powerful for driving targeted traffic to your landing page. You can:

  • Use your personal Facebook page to get your friends and family members talking about your new site
  • Create a Facebook page for your blog or website
  • Join targeted Facebook groups and interact with the members to generate interest in your new site.

I would do a combination of the latter two. Create a Facebook Page:

  1. Create a Facebook page for your website (you'll need one later anyway)
  2. Start posting teasers or building buzz for your brand (here's an example of how I did that):

Because Facebook operates differently from Twitter, try to post general updates not about the site launch in between these teaser posts.

Join Facebook Groups in Your Niche: Search for very targeted Facebook groups in your niche to begin building relationships with the members of the group.

The purpose of this is not to spam the group! Please do not do this. Only bring up your website as it naturally comes up in conversation.

For example, say you had a beginner photography blog and in a Facebook group somebody says they are going to be doing their first indoor newborn photo shoot and wanted to know what equipment they needed.

If your opt-in offer has anything to do with equipment (maybe it's a report called 6 Surprising Tools I Never Leave Behind for Photoshoots), you could say something like “Hey [asker's name], congratulations on landing your first gig! I'd recommend bringing along a [peice of equipment]. I just wrote about this for my website, [url] – hopefully the pdf I created can give you a hand”.

If you are honestly helping people, they'll be appreciative and excited to sign up for your email list to get more value. And don't worry. Just because you're only answering one person's question doesn't mean it won't help others.

I would see at least 5 sign-ups with every post I did like this, but of course, my topic is very narrow.

Bonus: the member discussions in the Facebook group provide great market research! Turn those questions they have into blog posts or part of your autoresponder sequence and you're providing even more value.

Experiment on Pinterest

To generate interest from Pinterest about your website, create some Pinnable images to link to your landing page.

This is also a great opportunity to test out headlines for your opt-in offer. Let's use an example of a photography blog again. Go to Pinterest and search your keywords to find the top pins. In our example, I typed in “photography tips”:

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 9.02.21 AM

These posts have thousands of re-pins, so you can bet there's a lot of traffic going to those pages. Note a few things:

  • What caught your eye first? (For me, on this page it is the 8 Things You Didn't Know Your Camera Could Do!” post because of the red color)
  • What do all of the top posts have in common? (In this case, most of them have large numbers: 100 tips, 50 tips and tricks, 150 tips. Note also the usage of images of women and girls. Think about Pinterests' user demographic to make sense of this).

Begin to create images to test out different headlines. Use different fonts and images as well so you can test which your audience responds to the best. You can make great Pinnable images on Pixelied, Canva, or PicMonkey for free.

If you need free stock photography, I recommend Pexels, Pixabay or  Unsplash. Link the image to your landing page, and pin it. When the visitor falls on your landing page from your Pin, they can opt-in to your email list to get the tips.

2. Guest Post

The one thing I've done that has given me the most results on Unsettle has been guest posting. I didn't do this before I launched Unsettle, but I wish I did. I didn't think there was a point: when I guest posted, didn't people want to come back to my site and have something to read?

But blogging great Jon Morrow argues that you shouldn't write a word for your own blog until you have 1,000 subscribers. And this makes sense.

As a new blogger or entrepreneur, you work so hard to create content for an audience you don't yet have. It's like pouring your soul into a speech and delivering it to five people at home when there's a huge hall just down the street you could speak at and reach hundreds or thousands.

Guest posting gets your content in front of people who would've never found you otherwise. Here's a process I go through for pitching a guest post:

  • Find blogs that your target audience reads (if you're not familiar with any, use Alltop.com)
  • Search the site for guest posting guidelines (maybe on a page that says “contribute” or “write for us” or “guest post”)
  • Review the guidelines to ensure the blog takes guest posts and become familiar with the tone
  • Read 5-10 of the blog's most popular posts: Sometimes they have a “popular posts” section. If they don't, you can find their popular posts on Buzzsumo.com by typing in the URL or Quicksprout.com. Reading through the posts will help you get a sense of the style of the posts and why they are popular on the blog
  • If they have a lot of comments, read through some of the comments and look for patterns. Maybe some commenters are asking questions that aren’t addressed in a blog post on the site already that you can write about. You should start to see a pattern with what does well.
  • Brainstorm some topics you think would answer questions of the readers, or just would be popular based on the other popular topics
  • Brainstorm headlines (using the guidelines in Jon Morrow's Headline Hacks) based around those topics
  • Follow the guest posting guidelines for pitching the article.
  • When you have 3-5 headlines that are really strong, send a short pitch email to the blog owner. Here's an example:
Hi {Name},My name is Sarah Peterson, and I am the blogger behind Unsettle.org. You may recognize my name as I've left several comments on your blog, and we've interacted on Twitter.Over the last couple of days, I have been digging through the articles on {Blog Name} to become familiar with the style and topics your readers respond to, and I would love to write a guest post for you.Here are some headlines I've brainstormed:
  • Headline 1
  • Headline 2
  • Headline 3
Are you open to having me write one of the above topics?If none are a good fit, that's okay. I can go back to the drawing board and brainstorm some more.Please see below for writing samples of articles I've posted on other sites (this is not 100% necessary but as you begin to accumulate guest posts, this is a great idea):
  • Article 1
  • Article 2
  • Article 3
Thank you,
Sarah Peterson

Don't make your email any longer than this. People do not want to read long emails and many bloggers won't even read an email that's longer than a few paragraphs. If the blog needs an entire blog post, I still try to pitch the headlines initially.

I don’t want to waste my time writing an article that won’t be accepted.

When you're pitching single-authored blogs, try to build a relationship with the blogger before you pitch so they will have some name recognition. You can do this by commenting on their blog posts, interacting with them on social media, or even sending them a nice email (who doesn't love a nice email!).

If your pitch is accepted, it's time to write an amazing article. 

The purpose of guest posting is to get in front of the host blog's audience so a portion of them will become email subscribers.

No reader will finish an article that isn't amazing, let alone get to the end and click on the link in your bio and subscribe. Every guest post you write should be far better than something you'd write for your own site. In fact, your best writing should be on other people's sites – until you have 1,000 people or more on your email list (and even still).

Even if you aren't focusing on blogging with your business, guest posting is still a good idea, so don't skip this step. Some of the biggest bloggers and website owners on the internet wrote dozens of guest posts before they launched their website, and many wrote hundreds after.

3. Run a Specific, Focused Giveaways

When I first started blogging, I ran a giveaway with a group of bloggers for an iPad, which led to hundreds of people signing up for my email list and following me on social media.

But because my blog was about personal finance I lost  90% of the new subscribers when the giveaway was over. I should have known better. An iPad has nothing to do with personal finance.

Those who subscribed as an entry option as part of the giveaway just wanted the iPad – only a tiny portion of them were interested in personal finance.

It would have been far better to give away something specific to the topic. Something only those who were interested in the topic would want.

Say you're a fitness blogger. Don't give away a prepaid Visa card. Give away a custom meal plan from a well-known nutritionist, or a weight lifting supplement package. Here's a quick process you can go through to get more people on your list by using a giveaway:

  • Choose a specific, targeted product to give away
  • Set up the giveaway on Rafflecopter (free) or  KingSumo (paid)
  • Ensure one of the entry options is signing up for your email list and sharing the giveaway on social media
  • Start driving traffic to your giveaway using Facebook ads or linking to it in your bio for guest posting

When you do draw a winner, you don't want to leave the rest of your new followers high and dry.

Work on an email to come out the day the giveaway ends that addresses some of the concerns they have that the giveaway would have solved.

Think about it: they entered your giveaway for a reason. They likely want information on a related topic as well, and if they get that information, they'll stick around.

In our fitness example, an example of this would be to write a blog post about the optimal amount of nutrition you need for your muscles to heal for weight lifters. This will keep your new subscribers around and provide value on a topic related to the giveaway.  

4. Just Ask

Your email subscribers are your most important tool.

And chances are, they're subscribed to your email list and following you because they like what you're doing and are excited for your launch.

So just ask them to share your website with a friend! Ask them to contact somebody who can benefit from your work or share on social media. Even if only a handful of people do share it, you're still reaching far more people than you would be able to on your own.

Don't only contact your list if you want their help – provide value in your emails as well – but there's nothing wrong with asking for the support of your community. They want to support you.  

These are just four of the many ways you can start driving traffic to your pre-launch website to build your audience. There are dozens of other tactics you can take, but these were very effective for me.

Don't get lost in the many different ways you can do this.

Pick one or two different tactics and get really good at them. As you start to build your audience, you'll notice it becomes easier and easier. And with all this preparation, your launch day will be a huge success.  

Check out Part 3 of this series hereDo These 3 Crucial Exercises Daily Before You Launch Your Website

19 thoughts on “How to Drive High Converting Traffic to Your Website Before Launch (Without Spending a Dime)

  1. Jaco Alberts says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for doing this series. It brings everything into perspective and I appreciate the fact that you keep it very practical.
    It’s all about being patient, proper planning and doing everything one step at a time, and then to persevere.

  2. Don says:

    I have seen a lot of these types of articles, and I notice you have several items I’ve not yet seen, including some links to aides. Thank you, Sarah. Do you cover promotion of guest posts and how to get influencers actively involved? Or how to build a product/service based on audience needs before launching?

    • Sarah says:

      I’m glad it’s helpful, Don! I will cover promotion of guest posts eventually, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea to try to build a product or service based on audience needs if you don’t have an audience yet. Your audience is smart – when you build one, they will let you know what they want. First comes audience, then comes massive value provided by you, then comes audience feedback and product development and sales. That’s my point of view 🙂 If you do it right, it shouldn’t take too long.

  3. Jon says:

    Wow Sarah, this is very helpful stuff. I especially appreciated the tip about Pinterest. That’s a foreign land where I haven’t spent much time at all. My girlfriend loves it though… you know as I progress more and more into the online sphere, I wish I had spent more time doing pre-launch and launch work instead of just putting it out there. To those reading this comment TAKE SARAH’S ADVICE! Build a subscriber list before you launch, your blog (and bank account eventually) will thank you for it!

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jon. Pinterest can be pretty powerful. I definitely think building a launch plan and doing that work initially is a great idea, but not everyone knows about it before hand 🙂

  4. Charlottaway says:

    This post is so helpful, Sarah. You share some really practical ideas here and I can’t wait to put them to use. Really enjoying following along with everything you’ve been doing at Unsettle. Congrats on the successful launch!

  5. Sarai says:

    Thanks so much for doing this series! It has been so helpful. I’ve been preparing my blog’s launch since April, but had yet to find something so detailed on exactly how to do the actual launch. I’m loving being able to put everything into action!

    • Sarah says:

      I am glad you find it helpful, Sarai! I see that you’re launching on June 1- very exciting. Let us know how it goes!

  6. Maria says:

    Great strategy outline. Preliminary buzz can spike curiosity and definitely will bring traffic, as you “open the doors” of your new venture.

  7. Lurlene says:

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be helpful to read articles from other
    writers and use something from other websites.

  8. Mike says:

    Wow…I’ve been online since 1994, watched the first great internet marketer (Terry Dean) make his fortune by 1999, got started myself in 2002, and grossed over half a million dollars online between 2002-2009.
    I say all that to say this…through all those years, my biggest challenge was (and continues to be) traffic. I’ve never seen a more crisp, concise, simply laid out plan for building up pre-launch traffic than this.
    You *do* realize that people (ahem…me) have paid thousands of dollars for traffic information products that didn’t provide 1/4 of the easily actionable info that you are giving away for free, right? 😉
    Thank you so much. This one article may have just allowed my internet marketing dreams to rise from the ashes once again.

    • Sarah says:

      Wow, Mike, look at you go! Sounds like you’ve been through the weather of the internet.
      Ha – that’s my aim – give away almost everything for free 🙂 So glad it’s useful to you.

  9. Lolly says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Thanks so much for all these resources, they are extremely helpful and so clearly written.
    I’m getting my writing site ready, aiming for December 1. I have been published a bit about bicycles and cities but I don’t want to be stuck in that realm any more. How can I pitch for guest posts when I don’t really have a place to point for examples? I’m also working on another project — besides writing and trying to figure out the best way to separate them. Or keep them together.
    I have an old blog (Reimagine an Urban Paradise) but I don’t really want to direct people there for writing examples since I haven’t updated it in a very long time and don’t plan to.
    Thanks Sarah and world for any thoughts you might have!

    • Sarah says:

      I’m SO glad they were helpful Lolly – I’m excited for you to launch! It’s been fun seeing your progress in the Facebook group. You can pitch guest posts with just a link to your landing page in your bio 🙂 I think it’s a good idea to keep them separate and then use the established one as writing samples.

  10. Samantha Aylmer says:

    This is AWESOME. I’ve been reading posts on starting a blog for days on end, and this series has been SO much more helpful than anything else I’ve read. My idea feels like my baby and I want to nourish and mature it the right way so it will be successful. I’m trying to wrap my mind around one thing though–how long should I give myself to “pre launch” while completing these steps?? I like the goal of 1,000 subscribers before I start blogging, but am not sure what an appropriate goal would be time wise to accomplish this…??? I want to set a launch date that will allow me to navigate through this process successfully before my launch. Any thoughts??

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Samantha! I am SO glad to hear it’s helpful – thank you for the feedback!! Re: how much time before, it greatly depends on how much time you have to amass subscribers. If you only have 1-2 hours per day to write guest posts etc to get subscribers, then I would give yourself 90 days (long but if you want to get to 1K subscribers first, it could take awhile if you have a full time job etc). So I guess it really just depends on how aggressive you are/willing to be.

  11. Ricky Figueroa says:

    Sarah, this is a brilliant post! I love that you shared a comparison of the two landing pages you used and the opt-in rate on both.
    I have to agree with you.
    Right now, before I launch my site… I have a simple “coming soon” landing page with a countdown timer offering a process map directly related to the product I will launch as well.
    For me, the opt-in rate is only 21% at the moment. But I know once I create a more compelling offer… and promote it to my target audience, the opt-in rate will be much higher.
    I loved the entire series you put together. Also, loving the script you shared for landing guest posts.
    Thank you!

Comments are closed.

you're currently offline