One thing to watch out for is that these people are busy. They might not even respond, or they might politely decline. It's frustrating, but understandable. If this is the case, take a step down, and start looking for peers to do joint ventures with. No one in their right mind would turn down an opportunity to grow their own audience and hone their craft. Just make sure that this is how you pitch your project to them.
The largest search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo, each have fairly simple programs to get started. You determine the key words or search phrase as well as the amount you are willing to spend (per click and/or per day). Most of them offer simple programs that require you to fill out a form and put a certain amount of money down as credit; you can also use a credit card to pay as you go. Like anything new, start small with paid SEM and add complexity (and budget) as you learn more and see results over time.
Not only can you see accurate measures of a site’s monthly search traffic, but you can see detailed breakdowns of where that traffic is coming from and what kinds of keywords are bringing the traffic. You can also see backlink information, such as which other sites are linking to the site, how often they’re linking, and how that data changes over time.
Websites produce traffic rankings and statistics based on those people who access the sites while using their toolbars and other means of online measurements. The difficulty with this is that it does not look at the complete traffic picture for a site. Large sites usually hire the services of companies such as the Nielsen NetRatings or Quantcast, but their reports are available only by subscription.