A few years ago, I looked at a report on how much traffic the most popular sites get. I call these sites, Internet Hubs, which are mostly comprised search engine sites. These are sites like Amazon, eBay, Microsoft/MSN, AOL, Google, Yahoo.
In the report, I was surprised to see that, in any particular area, the most popular search engines can draw more traffic into its website than a well-known site that specializes in that area. For example, Yahoo's news section draws far more than the combined totals of sites like CNN.com, MSNBC.com, and Foxnews.com. Yahoo's personals most likely draws more traffic than the combined traffic of non-search-engine-based personals. In a similar way, Amazon's different sections and product categories outsell branded web stores of the same category by the leading Fortune 500 companies.
It is my theory that a fairly easy method to draw a lot of traffic is simply to find a way to obtain a link from these Internet Hubs, (as well as smaller hubs in a particular industry or category) back to one's own. Links from the most popular sites are probably going to generate far more traffic than a combination of those from many lesser known sites.
This theory is more sophisticated than it sounds, because it means studying the multitude of various programs that the hub offers and determining whether any of these programs can be used directly or indirectly (as a side effect) to increase traffic. While I don't condone spamming, the actual purpose of the program offered by hub is secondary to the traffic benefits.
- Search Engines. The obvious approach is to perform Search Engine Optimization, by designing web-sites and seeking reciprocal links in a way causes pages in that site to rank high in search results. Alternatively, one could pay for placement through the use of advertising program offered by search engines such as Google's AdSense or Overture.
- Auction Sites. My software publishers neglect to consider auction sites, such as eBay, Yahoo actions, and Amazon auctions, as an alternative marketing channel, but it is probably worthwhile. In my MBA program, one entrepreneur recounted that he obtained an instant and large amount of traffic to his site, simply by selling his product through eBay. Not only are these sites keyword based, but traffickers have already signaled their intent to buy just by visiting those sites. I believe that all these sites offer the option of selling fixed priced items.
- Inside Windows. It's every software companies dream to get a link from Microsoft.com. Well, every copy of Windows has a link to the Windows Catalog the startup menu. While the site has 3% of the traffic of a top site like Download.com, there are fewer titles, so less competition, and also the site probably attracts more buyers as a percentage of its visitors. By passing a "Designed for Windows" compliance test, products can obtain a heightened profile. Not a lot of software publishers are aware of this site to their disadvantage.
In addition, Microsoft has additional partner and ISV programs. Microsoft also has a tendency to promote products, which take advantage of the latest and newest Microsoft technology or meet logo compliance standards in press releases and elsewhere.
- Search Engine Stores. Both Yahoo and Amazon support a directory of third-party stores in exchange for a fee. I have purchased a number of products from sites that take part in the Yahoo Store programs, and I suspect that for many websites, being listed as a store may produce more additional traffic than the site can obtain on its own.
Of course, if you are selling software, don't forget about the large variety of download sites. Download.com, ranked as the 37th most popular site by Alexa, is actually an Internet hub in its own right.