There are many types of sites with which you can generate traffic.
But there’s one in particular that is great for small, and even some medium, sized sites:
question and answer sites (Q&A).
These sites consist solely of users asking questions and other users answering those questions.
Because they are “natural” questions, they contain long tail keywords in most cases.
Because of that, these sites quickly amass search engine traffic in addition to their regular user base traffic.
There are hundreds of Q&A sites out there, but for this post, I’m going to focus on two of the biggest: Quora and Stack Exchange.
Yahoo Answers is also large, but it’s not friendly to marketers (links often get deleted), and I find that the quality of the questions and answers is low.
You’ve probably at least heard of or seen Quora by now. It’s about the 140th biggest site in the world:
It covers just about every topic imaginable.
Stack Exchange, on the other hand, has separate mini-Q&A sites for many different topics (mainly related to technology and education).
Like with every traffic generation method, you need a strategy when using these sites.
That’s what I’ll be giving you here: a step-by-step plan to capitalizing on these question and answer sites.
While I’m going to focus on those two here, this strategy will work for just about any Q&A site. So, if you can find a niche-specific Q&A site, you’re set.
Which businesses should drive traffic from Q&A sites? Before we get started, you need to figure out whether these types of sites can work for you.
While you can drive a significant amount of traffic to your website (thousands a month), you’ll be hard-pressed to ever generate truly huge amounts of traffic.
That means that this strategy is best for sites that only get a few thousand visitors a month. To them, this new traffic source will make a big difference.
If that sounds like you, let’s get started.
Step 1: Identify topics, categories, and search phrases
First, know that you won’t be answering the first questions you see—that would be a waste of your time.
Everything you do on these Q&A sites should be to maximize your visitors/time spent ratio.
If you’re answering questions no one cares about, you won’t get many visitors, and that ratio is going to suck.
The ideal questions to answer have a few common factors:
They’re not very old – on Quora, the best questions aren’t more than a few hours old. The older the question is, the more other answers you will be competing against.
They have a relatively high number of views - if they get more views than other questions, many people must be interested.
They have a low number of other answers - the more answers there are, the more likely your answer will get buried at the bottom.
There’s one attribute that ties the 2nd and 3rd factors together.
If many people are interested in a question, why aren’t there many answers?
Because the question is difficult to answer.
It’s important to understand this because you will be tempted to dodge these questions, thinking it’s easier to do a quick answer to a simple question.
But simple questions get tons of answers.
Expect to put some serious work into your answers to these difficult questions. It might take you 15-30 minutes sometimes to answer them, but if you get a few hundred visitors (or thousand), it can be worth it.
I’ll walk you through the steps of finding these questions on both sites.
Finding great questions on Quora: To start, go to your profile. There will be a section called “knows about,” where you can describe your areas of expertise.
In the text area, start typing major keywords (e.g., “marketing”, “SEO”, “jewelry”, etc.) that reflect your niche.
Quora will suggest relevant and popular topics. Choose them, and press “add.”
The more topics you add, the more potential questions there will be to answer, but keep the topics relevant.
Once you’ve done that, click the “Answer” link on the top toolbar.
That generates a list of questions that fit the topics you just chose.
The annoying part about Quora is that you can’t sort the questions.
By default (the only option), the questions are sorted based on an algorithm that considers the posting date and the number of other comments and views.
Your only real option is to scroll through them.
Take a look at the above picture to see what information is available for each question.
As you can see, it’s not perfect, but it’s a good start. For each question, we can determine:
the number of answers
when the question was asked
the number of people following
You can find more useful data inside each question. If you click on any of those titles to go to the question page (with all the answers), you’ll see a “Question Stats” box in the right sidebar.
That box will show you the most important stat we’re looking for: views.
Typically, the views will correspond to the number of followers, but not always, so you should check both.
Now that you know what we’re looking for and where to find it, you just need an efficient process to identify which questions are good.
Here’s a good start:
screen out questions that were asked over a day ago
screen out questions that have zero followers or fewer than 100 views (this does not apply to very recent questions, of course)
screen out questions that already have over 10 answers (you could go lower)
This will leave you with a few good questions to answer. These questions will:
have a good amount of interest
have little competition (more on this later)
Most Q&A sites are similar: Some Q&A sites, like Stack Exchange, are easier to use for this purpose.
Like I said before, Stack Exchange consists of a ton of mini-Q&A sites divided by topic.
You can find one that’s relevant to your niche using the dropdown menu at the top:
All sites on Stack Exchange can be sorted by tags.
If you click on a tag, you’ll get a list of questions that have been marked with that tag.
That’s not very different from the process we used above. However, you now have the ability to sort these questions by a few different filters:
You can see the filters on the top menu above.
Additionally, Stack Exchange sites show you the number of views right on this page.
You should mainly use the “votes,” “newest,” and “unanswered” filters.
The “votes” filter will sort all posts with your tags according to the number of votes those posts received (indicating interest).
If you see a post with thousands of views but very few answers, you may want to add one. Even if a post is old, it’s likely still getting views from search traffic if it’s this popular.
You’ll want to spend most of your time sorting by “newest.”
You can either jump on questions with no answers yet that you think might get more popular or stick to questions that are a few hours old that already have a good number of views.
It depends on how much time you have available to answer questions.
Step 2: Here’s how to structure answers for maximum effectiveness
Now that you know how to find good questions to answer, the hard work begins.
On most Q&A sites, including Quora and Stack Exchange, answers are ordered by the number of “upvotes” you get.
In theory, the best answer should rise to the top.
This means that your answers have to be the best.
However, you also want to be able to drive traffic to your website.
There are three main methods to do this, but they all hinge on one key criterion of question selection:
Only answer questions related to content you’ve already written about.
Otherwise, there won’t be a natural way to drive traffic back to your site.
Method 1 – A brief answer with a link to a post: Once in awhile, you’ll get lucky and come across a question that you’ve addressed almost perfectly in a past post.
For example, when someone on Quora asked whether content marketing was effective and whether it was worth spending time on over SEO, I had to answer it.
I already had a post that answered this question exactly.
That made my answer simple but credible.
I did provide a brief answer, but I was able to point the person asking the question to a more detailed answer.
In cases like these, your link will fit the situation perfectly, and it won’t seem like you’re trying to jam it in there.
Method 2 – Reference posts in your answer: Most of the time, questions will be on related to your past content issues.
In this case, you’ll have to provide a detailed answer on Quora itself.
It takes a lot more work, but if it gets you a few thousand views, it’s worth it.
As far as the linking goes, just put in 1-3 links to your closely related content whenever it makes sense. You won’t get an amazing click-through rate, but you’ll still drive a good amount of traffic.
Here’s an example of an answer by Eli Rubel, where he cleverly slipped in a link to a blog post about measuring results:
Method 3 – Recommend your product directly: You need to be careful not to spam these sites with promotional links and answers, but if you sell a product, you’ll occasionally get the chance to recommend it directly.
The key is to do it in a transparent and authentic way.
Start with a disclaimer saying who you are. Here’s an example answer:
The key thing to keep in mind is that your answer still has to be valuable if you want it to get upvoted.
So, if someone asks for a product that lets them do “x, y, z,” make sure you explain in great detail all the ways your product helps them accomplish those tasks.
Point out honestly where your product is strong as well as where it’s weak because readers will appreciate it.
While these questions don’t typically get as many views as others, they can lead directly to sales, which makes them much more valuable.
Step 3: Track and modify your approach
The final thing you need to do is track your results to determine whether answering questions is worth your time.
Overall, this is a simple 2-step process.
Fair warning: your first 5-10 answers probably won’t do very well. You’ll quickly learn what does and doesn’t work on the Q&A site you chose to start with.
Track (1) the time you spend on each answer and (2) the number of visitors you get from that time (even better—conversions).
You can track views directly on the Q&A site, but views to your actual website are more important.
In Google Analytics, go to “Acquisition > Overview > All Traffic > Referrals” in the left side bar:
You’ll get a list of all the different sites that referred visitors to your site, hopefully including your Q&A site:
Next, you can click on that site in particular, and you’ll see a list of the pages that it sent traffic to:
Give each post at least a week to see what kind of traffic it is driving (both immediately and on a consistent basis).
Once you have a sample size of at least 20-30 questions, you have enough information to determine whether using Q&A sites is an effective traffic generation strategy for your business.
It usually will be if you’re good at picking questions and getting top answers, but in some industries it will be harder than others. That’s why you need to measure and evaluate your results.
Q&A sites present a huge opportunity for marketers looking to grow smaller sites—even if using them isn’t scalable.
I’ve shown you a simple but effective 3-step process that works on almost any Q&A site.
If you’re still with me at this point, chances are that one (or more) Q&A site might be a great traffic driver for your business.
Start by using this process to answer at least 20 questions, and adjust the process from there if needed.
If you still have questions about how to drive traffic using Q&A sites, now is the time to ask. Leave your questions below in a comment, and I’ll try to answer them.