Viral advertising is one of the most commonly used forms of online advertising, though few people realize it and take advantage of it. Think of how many times you’ve given a friend of yours the link to a cool site you’ve found–probably more than you can remember.
First and foremost, you need to get your site out there. It doesn’t have to be targeted; traffic is traffic. And at least part of that traffic will stop and seeing what your site’s about.
Once you’ve got your name out there, you can target a bit more. This is best done through paid services such as AdBrite or Google’s Adwords program. But paying is not the idea here.
A few tricks include:
1) Putting the link to your site in the signature of your emails. Most email programs have this feature, but very, very few people choose to use it. Think of how many emails you send in a day; it may or may not be quite a few. But either way, when someone reads your email, all the way through, their eyes will be drawn to that little link under your last words. Since you seem reasonable enough of a person, they may even click on it.
2) Putting the link to your site in your signature on forums. And be creative about it. There’s nothing interesting or intriguing about reading a “My Site” hyperlink that links to one’s site. Try to get a banner, if the site will let you. If they won’t let you use a banner, use italics, bolded words, underlines, spacing, colors, size of fonts, fonts, and plays on words as much as you can to draw interest. Furthermore: use forums. There should be at least a couple of forums that you visit regularly and post on. Interestingly, one could conceivably combine the use of MyLot.com with the idea of advertising in one’s signature to generate a bit of money whilst advertising for their site. Just be careful to not make it spam-ish.
3) If your friends have sites, ask them if they’d like to affiliate with you. That is, you put a link to their site on your site, and they put a link to your site on theirs. This can generate quite a bit of traffic, especially if your sites have similar content.
4) Link to your site in your AIM profile, MSN profile, YIM profile, and any other profile you have. Again, be creative with your profile. Or…not. Sometimes an clever lack of creativity, ala the bluntness routine, can be equally effective.
5) Have content on your site that people will want to share with their friends. And make it as exclusive as possible. Make it funny, catchy, strange, unique, or inspiring of a “WTF?” reaction. An even more interesting trick is to not use your own bandwidth on hosting this content–but that’s another story.
Good luck, fellow webmaster!