How can I get initial users for my website?


We have a website that's just about to be released. We did a limited beta release (friends, family) and some light advertising with Google Adwords (very small budget- about $200).

The ad campaign got us a couple hundred visitors, but no real active users.

What can we do to grow our user base? Is it simply more advertising? Is it worth seeking a PR firm, and if so, any recommendations? Is it worth seeking venture capital for any reasons? The site is already built, and our operating costs are low, so we aren't in any need of cash, per se.

Thanks in advance

Edit: The site helps people find gift ideas through users offering suggestions for each unique gift-needing occasion.

So there are 2 draws for people to visit the site: To get gift ideas, and to have fun helping others get ideas.

Edit 2: One possible idea I've come across since posting this is to use Amazon's Mechanical Turk-- pay prices for small bits of work done. I wonder if anyone has any experience having done this.

Launch Website Internet Marketing

asked Sep 13 '11 at 08:07
161 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • It would help to know more about your site. Why would someone come and be active on your site? Are you selling something? What's the hook? – John 12 years ago
  • I've updated the question with a few more details. I can give more if that'd still be helpful. – Cuga 12 years ago
  • Good that you've added some more information. Another thing you might consider is actually listing your URL. Lots of people here have (or create) websites and can give you some VERY specific tips...if they can see your site. – John 12 years ago
  • Cuga & @John: We **strongly discourage** people from posting links to their websites, especially from low rep users. The place to promote your site is in the About section of your profile. Those that are interested in learning more will check out your profile. Also, please review our [FAQ]( Review my site type of questions are not within the scope of this site. – Zuly Gonzalez 12 years ago
  • @zuly I didn't post a link to the site until the 3rd edit, each edit being prompted by requests for more info about the site – Cuga 12 years ago
  • @zuly - my apologies for not reading up on the rules. – John 12 years ago
  • @John and Cuga: No worries. It was an innocent mistake. It happens all the time. Welcome to the community! We are glad to have you onboard. – Zuly Gonzalez 12 years ago

6 Answers


Honestly, so many people ask this here, that we should set up a "cooperative" where we agree to join each others sites - and maybe provide feedback and ideas - so that we all can get that critical initial user base. Also, I'm not sure if you will get anywhere with Google ads. One thing I just tried with my sitte was to buy some StumbleUpon traffic - that is only five cents per visit. Then I put the StumbleUpon logo and and "welcome Stumblers" message in a block on the home page. I only did a very brief one day trial with less than 50 visits - just a few registrations, but lots of "likes". I decided to do a bit more work on the site and may give that another shot. For $20 you can get 1000 visitors, targeted to any demographic, and you can turn it off and on like a water faucet.

answered Sep 13 '11 at 14:40
Rob Gordon
441 points
  • +1 Rob for a decent idea, I would give 1/2 hour of my time to a site per week to give some feedback, especially if I knew the reverse might happen when I need it. – Robin Vessey 12 years ago
  • Thanks for the answer. This is a great example of the new kind of insight I was looking for, since I feel similarly about simply throwing more money at Google ads. – Cuga 12 years ago


Your problem is here:

no real active users

Fix that first (iterate by buying a few Google ads, and measuring whether people actually end up using your site). Then you can worry about spreading the word. It's called finding market/fit.
answered Sep 13 '11 at 14:00
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • Thanks for the insight. I agree that no active users is the problem. We did a small Google ads campaign, and we had about 200 people visit the site with a low bounce rate, but no one signed up to participate. Can you offer any more advice? – Cuga 12 years ago


You can buy ads if you can afford it and if you think it's worthwhile, but there are a few things you can do to get free exposure:

  • Create a sitemap file and submit it to the major search engines.
  • Email all your friends, neighbors, and relatives with a link to your new site.
  • Get a page on Facebook and try to attract facebook traffic.
  • Mention your site on other social networks, YouTube, etc.
  • Set up a Google Analytics account to gauge your traffic and to see which search words are attracting people. You might want to alter the text on your site a little in order to appeal to searchers better.
  • Try to get your site mentioned by popular bloggers. And not-so-popular bloggers.

All this will probably not work overnight, but if you keep after it you could get some sizable traffic.

answered Sep 13 '11 at 15:00
652 points
  • Thanks much. I understand that overnight successes take years to occur, and your underscore of persistence and dedication is good to keep in mind. Do you have any ideas how I can get in front of some bloggers or maybe get some mentions on sites like social networks? We do have facebook/ twitter/ a blog set up already. Also-- I've updated the original post to have the site url. I'd appreciate any more insight you can offer. – Cuga 12 years ago
  • There's a fine line between spam and site mention, so you need to be careful not to offend too many people. A personal email or personal message to a blogger social network member is better than a comment that might be construed as spam. Both are likely to be ignored, but if you do it enough you'll find some people who are interested. Good luck! – Xpda 12 years ago


Find your target market, does your website cater to teens, moms, dads, etc. Use catchy ad line and relevant keywords in your ad campaigns.
You could also try looking for message boards or forums that are related to your niche, participate and share your knowledge while slowly promoting your website, but be careful also not to spam the forums or message boards.

answered Sep 13 '11 at 15:28
11 points
  • Thanks. We're trying to come up with better marketing pitches. Do you have any suggestions for how to go about promoting the website specifically? – Cuga 12 years ago


"What can we do to grow our user base? Is it simply more advertising?" At this stage, I would say no to more advertising. It sounds like you have bigger concerns at the moment than generating traffic.

"Is it worth seeking a PR firm, and if so, any recommendations?" I don't think so - same reason as previous answer.

"Is it worth seeking venture capital for any reasons?"

I don't think so - same reason as previous answer.

If you generated traffic without active users, it seems that you have one or both of the following problems: Either your site does not have a compelling value proposition or your landing pages (if you are even using any) are ineffective. For the moment, let's assume the problem is not the value proposition because the answer would be simple (i.e. abandon hope). Let's assume the problem is poor landing pages. Here are some suggestions for optimizing them:

Create pages with compelling headlines. Focus on creating a vision for the audience that allows them to see how much better off they will be after taking the action you want them to take. Be sure to include one of the seven fascination triggers in your headline (lust, vice, alarm, power, prestige, mystique or trust).

Connect with the audience. Build off of your headline by showing the audience that you can identify and empathize with their plight. People want to buy from people who are more like themselves.

Clearly define your offer. Tell the customer exactly what they will get in exchange for their lead information (preferably no more than an email). Don't get cute here - be extremely concise with your language and don't hide anything.

Provide testimonials. If people have made it this far, a powerful testimonial can seal the deal. Social proof is a vital aspect of the buying process.

Dispel their fears. Try to anticipate the buyers' reservations and address them head on. For example, tell them it won't take as much time as they may think or won't be as risky as they may fear. Making the offer completely risk-free (e.g. money back guarantee) is another way to accomplish this.

answered Sep 13 '11 at 22:26
Jon Di Pietro
1,697 points
  • Thanks. This jives with my own concerns, that maybe the site isn't intuitive enough for users, or perhaps we don't encourage them enough to get involved. I've updated the post w/ our URL. If you wouldn't mind checking the site out and offering any more insight, I'd be very grateful =) – Cuga 12 years ago
  • Cuga - I checked out your website and found that you don't have any landing pages. When I click on "Get great gift ideas" from the home page, the page I'm taken to gives me no information whatsoever. This page needs to be a landing page, which contains the elements I described in my answer. Tell people what they're going to get if they sign up, what information they need to give up, provide testimonials and make dispel their fears. At the moment, there simply isn't enough information to convince me why I would want to sign up. – Jon Di Pietro 12 years ago
  • I really appreciate this, Jon. You actually found a bug that I didn't realize-- that link and the one below it should take you to the same links as found on the site's toolbar, and the equivalent toolbar button for "get ideas" does have a landing page. This fix took 2 seconds, but I need to make sure the rest of the code is stable before I post it. Thanks again – Cuga 12 years ago
  • Fixed. Thanks again! Any more insight, please don't hesitate. – Cuga 12 years ago


Cuga, let me try and give you some direction.

Since your site needs user generated content, and you typically want users that want to share their gift ideas, I think the place to scout around is Facebook.

After you have done what Jon DiPietro suggests above - because you need a clearly focused website to begin with - and created an enchanting Facebook page, buy the book Killer Facebook Ads: Master Cutting-Edge Facebook Advertising Techniques by Marty Weintraub.

For your need, the best place to spend your limited budget is in Facebook ads, but do that after you read the book by Marty.

answered Apr 27 '12 at 14:53
Partha Bhattacharya
1 point

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