It’s easy to forget the fundamental components of Web site promotion. Winding back the clock to the days when many Webmasters couldn’t afford prolonged advertising campaigns, the majority of people starting out with a new Web site were forced to discover the art of free Web site promotion. In recent times, however, with “pay per click” advertising becoming less expensive and various other marketing activities becoming increasingly cheaper, the art of effectively promoting your site for free appears to have been lost. The purpose of this article is to act as a refresher course for any Webmasters who are keen to keep their promotional activities down to a shoestring budget.The practices you perform when promoting your site for free are just as important as any paid advertisements you might run. Indeed, drawing a steady flow of visitors to your Web site needn’t be an expensive affair. So, what things really matter if you’re serious about increasing your site’s traffic for free?1) You should ensure your site is easy to link to. Even Webmasters who enjoy what your site has to offer may not consciously think to link you. In any case, you should remind your visitors, preferably on every page, how to go about adding your link. Not only will this bring extra visitors, it will improve your site’s relevancy for the search engines. Additionally, establishing link exchanges with similar-themed sites as yours is a remarkably popular and effective way of boosting your traffic levels for free. Your aim should be to establish as many relevant link-backs as possible.2) You might like to consider adding a hyperlink to your Web site in your e-mail signature. If you’re feeling creative, you could do what some Webmasters do and add a small slogan, too. As well as this and within reason, you should respond to every legitimate e-mail you receive so that your Web address sticks in the mind of your contacts.3) You should utilise search engines since they’re an ideal form of free traffic. Ensuring your pages are search engine friendly is crucial. The majority of people find information on the Internet via search engines and it’s important that you correctly research how to optimise your site. A good listing on a popular search engine can works wonders for traffic levels, so try spending some time optimising your pages. If you’re unsure and need some guidance with the technicalities, there are numerous sites and forums on the Internet that can help you out.4) Entering your site for awards is an excellent way to gain recognition. However, when suggesting your site for review, be sure to avoid “automatic award submitting” services, since these can significantly lower your chances of winning. They don’t generally fare too well with the judges either.5) Although not entirely free, you might like to experiment with running competitions on your site. Even if the prize is inexpensive (e.g. a t-shirt with your Web address on the front), it’s a sure-fire way to reel-in interested visitors. Besides, directories specialising in listing competitions may also link to your site and send you additional visitors.6) Submitting your site to the Open Directory (dmoz.org) is a free necessity for generating more site visitors. Not only will a listing here help to increase your site’s relevancy (for search engine purposes), it will be accessible via countless other Web locations who use the Open Directory to power their own sites.7) If you want to instantly draw some attention to your site, then tell all your friends about it. Word of mouth advertising is the best possible form of promotion anyone can muster, and incidentally, it’s completely free!8) Try telling visitors how to bookmark your site. There are still many Web surfers out there inexperienced with the Internet. You’d be surprised at how many also don’t know how to bookmark a Web site they’ve found. That said, when designing your pages, it’s a good idea to tell visitors how to add a bookmark. Alternatively, you could add a “click here to bookmark us” hyperlink.9) Newsgroups are perfect for gaining site recognition. Recklessly promoting your site in newsgroups, however, is frowned upon. The key to promoting your site in newsgroups is to participate in newsgroup discussions that interest you. To promote your Web site (and to avoid any behaviour that may be deemed inappropriate), simply include your Web address in your signature. If readers appreciate your point of view, then it’s likely that they will take some time to visit your Web site.10) You should endeavour to update your site regularly. Fresh, regularly-updated content will enable you to gather a keen audience, and what’s more, it will keep visitors returning. It’s far easier to retain existing visitors than to find new ones. Therefore, your content should be structured in such a way that it entices people to return.11) You may not have realised but how a person finds their way around your Web site is a make-or-break scenario for traffic levels. If people can’t find what they’re looking for then they won’t view your site in a favourable light – and chances are they won’t return. Therefore, when designing your site’s pages, keep site navigation in mind, since consistent traffic levels are swayed by your site’s user-friendliness. All your content should be easy to locate within three mouse clicks. Think “simple navigation”. If visitors can find what they’re looking for within the shortest amount of time possible then by and large, they will keep a mental note of your site and may pay a visit in the future.12) Sites that are fast to load keep visitors visiting, and they’ll undoubtedly help to increase your Web site traffic flow. Keeping site loading times down is a free and sensible way to indirectly increase traffic. How many times have you visited a Web page, only to find that it takes an age to load? My guess is that you didn’t bother waiting around. On the Internet, if you want to be successful, then your site should (ideally) strike a balance between presentation and loading time.Summary: A massive, targeted advertising campaign is the ideal solution for quick traffic. However, most ordinary Webmasters are not working for large corporations who can afford this level of promotion. The fact is you don’t necessarily have to pay for high traffic levels, although if you are opting for the “free” route, you will have to work hard if your endeavours are to be successful. Remember: some of the best and most effective ways to increase traffic do not always require a wallet!