My friend Elena Murzello just got her web site going. Elena is an actor who's appeared as Anna in The L Word, Tennat #1 in Da Vinci's Inquest, and a Nurse Educator in the Vancouver Coastal Health's Unit Dose Project, among other roles. (One of these things is not like the other.)

She asked me for hints about how to generate traffic to her web site. I realized that I really should blog my thoughts, because other people could comment and correct what I say. So the rest of this post is written to Elena, but you can read it as if it's written to you.

First, your site looks great. I'm really glad you have a blog on it, and that you're writing new posts frequently. New posts generate traffic to your site, and traffic to your site improves your ranking on search engines. Write blog posts about what's important to you, and about your experiences in the dramatic arts. Mention names: If you had a great moment with Nicholas Campbell while filming for Da Vinci, blog that. The more names the better.

(Let's face it, you'll get more traffic blogging about The L Word. Who am I kidding. And a note to the regular technical readers of this blog: The L Word is not a TV series about Linux.)

Tumblr looks like a great blog service. As usual, I learn something from you. Thanks!

Also, put links in your blog post, like I'm doing with this blog post. It's a service to your readers, but it also generates traffic back to your site. Think of it as if you get points when someone goes somewhere popular because you pointed them there.

Of course, make sure that all search engines are indexing your site, but especially Google. You web site designer should have done this for you already, but don't assume it was done. Ask.

You're also absolutely doing the right thing by using Google Analytics (or any kind of traffic measuring tool). If you decide to pay someone to do some search engine optimization on your site, you need to have baseline data on how well your traffic was growing just from your own efforts. No point in paying someone for growth that you generated by yourself.

Next get on Twitter (Update: Elena's at @ElenaMurzello) and put Echofon, a free app from the App Store, on your iPhone. Echofon makes tweeting from your iPhone easy, so that you'll tweet a lot.

Then, use TwitterFeed or something like it to feed your blog posts to Twitter and Facebook. Your web site designer will have to put an RSS or Atom feed on your blog. Once that's done, you can set up TwitterFeed yourself. If you don't want to, your web site designer should be able to help you. And if they can't, I'll help you.

Add "Follow me on Twitter" and "Tweet this" icons and text on your web site (meaning your blog). Your web site designer will have to do that. The first makes it easy for people to follow you. The second makes it easy for people to publicize your site -- free publicity!

Get yourself a YouTube account. Post clips of yourself with some commentary about why you like the clip. Put links back to your site in the YouTube comment, and blog about the video link and embed the video in your blog (as you've done already with other people's work). If you want some help editing videos, let me know.

Finally, start reading Seth Godin's blog. Seth is the original marketing brain of the Internet age and he's an incredible generator of ideas. I find reading his blog overwhelming, but if you take even one of his ideas and implement it you're way ahead of everyone else.

Now, about search engine optimization. I'm no expert, but I've heard from reliable sources that Google and the other big search engines put a lot of effort into preventing people from "gaming" search results. It makes sense. People won't use a search engine if they don't get the answers they really want. So Google does a lot to make sure that your rank is based on people who found your site useful. That's why real traffic from real people is the best way to rise up in the search engine ranks.

Most search engine optimization techniques already don't work. What I mean is that every time someone comes up with a new trick, Google and the others find a way to filter it out. No search engine optimization "expert" that you and I can afford to hire is likely to know how to outsmart Google. And even if he does today, you'll find that next month Google has neutralized the trick.

If you really want to get someone to do search engine optimization, ask if they'll agree to be paid based on the sustained additional growth in traffic they provide to your site. It will take some work to come up with a fair formula, but you have the raw data you need since you're using Google Analystics. Really, if someone isn't confident they can produce results for you, why should you be confident they can produce results?

I hope this helps. Let me know what you think.