4 Ways to Unlock the Traffic Driving Power of the Web Browser

When it comes to driving traffic to your website there are most likely a number of means and methods that immediately come to mind: search engine marketing via Google Adwords or Microsoft AdCenter, custom Facebook Pages and ads, search engine optimization, an active Twitter account, Stumbleupon, blogging, and YouTube.

All of these services or websites are most likely very important to your brand and it’s a good idea to know how to utilize them to their fullest. However, there is something else that everyone accessing the web uses more than anything on that list – something you may not be utilizing AT ALL to drive traffic to your site.

Well…sort of.

That thing is the Web Browser. So of course people use it to get to your site…but what you may not know is that there are other more engaging ways the web browser can be used to drive traffic.

As opposed to the methods of driving traffic listed above, the four uses of the web browser that are listed below do not concentrate on attracting new users or visitors. Instead their aim is to enhance the browsing experience of your existing community, allowing them to stay connected to your brand and content even when they’re away from your site. Which in the end, will lead to more interaction, repeat visits and a boost in traffic.

1. Browser Applications

What Are They?

A browser-based application (or app for short) is an advanced interface to web content that give the browser features and functionality similar to desktop applications. The uses of browser-based apps are virtually endless. The possibilities range from reading comics, to managing your finances, to playing games, editing photos, checking the weather, reading the news, shopping, or even listening to your favorite music and more. Having a beloved browser app can really stoke the fire of community enthusiasm and engagement around your site, service, or brand.

At the moment it seems that Google is pushing Web Apps the hardest. It is clear that making web apps an integrated part of their users’ browsing experience with Google Chrome is very important to them. While most of the apps listed below will work on other browsers, like Firefox and Internet Explorer (if you go directly to their URL), Google Chrome is the only major browser with an Apps Marketplace and specific “launch screen” (as seen below) for the apps you’ve installed.

chrome web store

However, to be fair to Firefox and Internet Explorer, it should be noted that much of the difference between browser apps, extensions, and add-ons comes down to semantics. While Google defines apps as bringing user interface (UI) to content and extensions as functionality without a UI component, most of the Apps in the Google Chrome Webstore have working versions for Firefox and Internet Explorer as well. The working usage of the term “add-on” for Firefox and Internet Explorer – in most cases – eclipses the terms used by Google Chrome for both “Extension” and “App.”

The main difference between Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome when it comes to Web Apps is that Chrome is the only one with a neat way of packaging Apps (by that name) to their users; the Webstore. What this means is that the vast majority of the Apps in the Chrome Webstore are not exclusive to Chrome – but they certainly do get a lot more attention there. Which is something else to keep in mind as a potential App creator.

App Examples:

Creately – Create charts and graphs of all kinds right in your browser!

creatly

Graphic.ly Comics – Read (in full-screen, “flow”, or zoomed-out mode) a growing library of web comics.

Graphic.ly

Clicker.tv – Helps you streamline your web television browsing/consumption by aggregating free video options from thousands of sources.

Clickertv

WeatherBug – Allows you to keep an eye on local weather with this attractive interactive page.

weatherbug

Pros: Having a browser app means that you’ve just become a destination. Depending on what tools, services, games, or other interesting things your app provides – your users/followers/fans could end up spending hours engaged with your brand every time they open their browser. Not only will this bring you more traffic but as you can see in some of the examples above, it’s a great way to remind your users of all the different ways they can interact with you online by promoting other social links.

Cons: Creating a well designed and useful web app is tough work that not everyone has the skill set or budget to pull off. This is definitely the most technically advanced way to use the browser to drive traffic.

Availability:

Build Your Own

2. Browser Toolbars

What Are They?

Browser toolbars are a series of icons/buttons arranged on a graphical user interface (GUI) strip attached to the top section of your browser window below the URL bar. Typically, toolbars are designed to group a series of complementary functions together with the goal of enhancing a specific experience users either enjoy or need. A standard default toolbar will be for helping you navigate the web and include features like an extra search box, easy bookmarking, and a few quick links to your favorite sites.

The uses for toolbars can be far more varied and specialized. In fact, many brands/sites/companies have created custom toolbars that group together a series of features and functionality to help their fans and followers stay engaged. More importantly, these toolbars allow their users to consume content more frequently and with increased ease.

Examples:

The Amazon Toolbar – provides a series of features that allow you to quickly search Amazon, add items to your wish list on the fly, and stay up to date on Amazon deals/new releases/news – no matter where you’re at on the web.

Amazon Toolbar

Travelocity Toolbar – This toolbar by a third party allows those who install it to quickly and easily book their next trip with Travelocity right from their toolbar.

Travelocity Toolbar

Availability:

  • Chrome – Chrome does not support toolbars.
  • Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari – While each browser comes with a few toolbar options, getting custom made tool bars usually means going through a third party. The world leader in creating custom toolbars for these browsers is Conduit.

Pros: Toolbars are ubiquitous and intuitive which allows those who install yours to instantly feel comfortable using the tools and features you’ve provided. And staying in front of your fans/followers no matter where they go online will keep you in the forefront of their mind and encourage increased visits to your site.

Cons: Some users can be turned off by toolbars in general, opting rather to optimize their screen real estate by going without toolbars altogether in order to keep their browser as minimal as possible. Also, while not dead – browser toolbars are a bit “2008.” With browser apps, themes, and extensions on the rise, having an additional toolbar may seem redundant to some users.

Availability:

  • Chrome – Chrome does not support toolbars in the traditional sense. Providers of Chrome toolbars have worked around Chrome’s limits by using a frame over the web page, rather than an addition to the browser. The look and feel is intended to mirror the traditional toolbar but the behavior is a little bit different.
  • Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari – While each browser comes with a few toolbar options, getting custom made tool bars usually means going through a third party. The world leader in creating custom toolbars for these browsers is Conduit.

Build Your Own:

3. Browser Extensions/Add-ons

What Are They?

Browser Extensions/Add-ons are lightweight programs that allow you to add custom features and functionality to your browser. You will frequently find add-ons, usually at the far right-hand side of the URL bar or in the status bar at the bottom of the browser.

The two biggest players in this field are Google Chrome (who use the term extension) and Mozilla Firefox (who use the term add-on). Each of these companies has an extensive library of extensions/add-ons to choose from with any number of useful functions to add to your browser. Below are some examples of especially popular ones.

Examples:

Tumblr for Chrome – this extension allows you to add images, text, or video from whatever page you happen to be browsing directly to your tumblr blog without ever leaving the page you’re on.

Awesome Screenshot – This extension is an extremely easy way to take a screenshot of an entire page, of all the section of page that’s in view, or just a selected section of the page you’re on. In addition, Awesome Screenshot allows you to annotate each image before saving and also allows you to save to their cloud storage or a specific folder on your computer.

awesome screenshot

Chrome to Phone – Working in conjunction with their android application, Chrome-to-phone allows you to push links, maps, and other information directly from your browser to your mobile device.

Greasemonkey – This add-on allows its users to write custom scripts in JavaScript and run them through the browser without having to build out their own app or add-on for that function. This add-on is very popular with developers.

Adblock Plus – Maybe the most popular add-on ever made, this program allows you to block any unwanted ads on whatever sites you visit.

adblock plus screenshot

Availability:

Pros: By having a useful extension you can make the functions and services on your website readily available to your users whether they are on your page or not.

Cons: While it is possible to have an add-on/extension that functions primarily as a quick link to your site or service, those types of add-ons/extensions are not very popular. So if you’re looking to get direct traffic out of this, that’s probably not going to happen. However, as shown via the tumblr extension above, by providing a tool that makes it easier to blog, they’ve boosted the chances their users will return more frequently to their site/service as a result of making it easy to maintain an active blog.

Build Your Own:

4. Browser Themes/Personas

What Are They?

A browser theme is a design layer added to your browser to update its appearance and in some instances it’s functionality. Both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have extensive galleries of browser theme/persona options to choose from on their official websites. The visual presence of a theme or persona ensures share of mind. However, if you’re looking for a theme that not only changes the design but also adds brand specific functionality then your best bet will be to use a third party that allows you to build your own interactive browser theme with those features included.

Examples:

Spongebob Squarepants for Chrome – This theme is by an independent designer and downloadable through the Google Chrome Webstore. This theme changes the color of the browser border at all times. When a new window or tab is opened, the theme will display a large branded graphic.

Sponge Bob Square Pants For Google Chrome

Harry Potter 7 pt 2 for Firefox – As an official persona by Warner Bros. Pictures for Firefox, this theme changes the border or utility section of the browser at all times with the below graphic. Usually just the upper-most part of any graphic is visible because of buttons and toolbars, but the branding is still thorough and also appears in larger form when a new tab or window is opened.

Harry Potter for FireFox

The Ohio State University theme for Firefox, Chrome & Internet Explorer – This theme is by a third party and is designed not only to change the appearance of the browser but also to include specific functionality that compliments the brand it’s promoting. In this case, that’s Ohio State University and some of the features include: easy access to OSU social sites and a newsfeed of the best news from ohiostatebuckeyes.com.

Ohio State Buckeyes Web Browser Theme

Pros: Keeping your brand in front of your users while they are away from your site encourages repeat visits. When combined with extra features like a newsfeed or quick links, this form of promotion can lead to a significant uptick in brand interaction.

Cons: Unlike an extension or a toolbar, this method changes the entire appearance of your users’ browser. What that means is that unless you have a number of different looks for them to choose from, when they decide to change things up again design-wise they are no longer connected to your brand in the same way.

Availability:

Build Your Own:

Final Thoughts

Each of the above methods of using your browser to better engage your audience has it’s pro’s and con’s as listed. However, the important thing about this post is that it gets you thinking about how best to use the browser to meet the specific needs of your fans, followers and users. No matter what method you choose to use the benefit will ultimately be the same, you’ll be providing a new, dynamic form of engagement that will result in more brand interaction and traffic to your site through repeat visitors.

Here are some links that might help you get started:


About the Author:

Kevin Dwinnell is the Director of Product & Marketing at Brand Thunder. You can follow his team on Twitter @brandthunder or Facebook.

  1. Wow, great in depth article on marketing via the browser. I really never even thought about using this as a marketing tool or a way to spread a brand but it makes sense. We are literally on our browsers at all times so if I can get my customers looking at me through that medium, the possibilities are endless.

  2. This is awesome, the outside of the box ways of driving traffic are always interesting, I bet that a lot of people underestimate browser tools in this regard.

  3. Thank you for an inspiring article. I would add a fifth way, which might also be listed under “Browser Extensions/Add-ons”: OpenSearch plugins, which used to be very popular but haven’t received much attention lately.

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