When it comes to traffic, it can take a while for people to fully understand the differences and nuances with how it really works.
The basic concept isn't hard to grasp. You build a website, people visit that website. Your website visitors are your traffic.
With me so far? Good!
After this part, it gets a little more confusing. Not all traffic is equal.
There are different types of traffic source, bringing different qualities of traffic, and often times creating different forms of revenue.
Already we're getting more complicated, but keeping the basic concept in mind, it should be easy to understand that for the vast majority of the time, the more traffic your site gets, no matter the source, the better.
In this article, we're going to look at some of the things you need to know about traffic. How does qualified traffic compare to unqualified? What is good and bad quality traffic? How do rankings contribute to traffic, and conversely, how can traffic contribute to rankings?
Is there such a thing as passive traffic? And finally, in what situations is more traffic not necessarily a good thing?
What You'll Learn Today
- A brief overview of traffic types
- Understanding the quality of traffic
- Why marketers love organic traffic
- The process of getting organic traffic
- Gaining traction
- How user behavior can affect rankings
- When more traffic won't fix your problems
Basic Overview of Traffic Types
We've actually gone into more depth on this subject in this article here, but I feel a quick overview is necessary for those of you who aren't yet familiar with different traffic types.
The most common types of traffic are:
- Organic Traffic (this means free traffic from search engines, most commonly Google).
- Referral Traffic (people visiting your site via a link from another site, or from social media such as Facebook).
- Direct Traffic (people typing in your website in their browser, or coming via a link in an email)
- Paid Traffic (people clicking your ads, either in Google, Facebook, or some other ad network).
Of course, each of these traffic sources can be further broken down, and each has its merits and negatives. For example, referral traffic from social media can be said to be quite far away and unqualified. They aren't necessarily sure what your site is about, they just clicked a link in their newsfeed.
On the flip side, referral traffic from a link in someone else's website (perhaps you did a guest post or you were on their podcast) can be highly qualified. People can read about you on someone else's site, presumably someone they trust, and they come to your site to learn more.
The same can be said for organic traffic. It can be traffic with some buying intent (perhaps the person searched for a product and found your review), or it can be very general (they just Googled some basic information, visited your site, then left with the answer).
Understanding Traffic Quality
What would you prefer to have as your main traffic source? 100 people who are coming your site to buy your service, or 1,000 people who are coming to your site because you shared an infographic in a Facebook group?
These are extreme examples, but they should showcase my point quite nicely. Not all traffic is equal (you'll read that a lot today).
My definition of Quality Traffic:
Other people may have a different definition, and this often depends on their needs, but here's what I'm interested in, and what you should be interested in too as an affiliate marketer.
- Quality traffic is interested in the topic you are writing about. They don't necessarily have to be in buying mode right now, but they are at least a member of your target audience.
- They are coming to your site because they have searched for the topic you're blogging on, have been recommended by someone else in your niche, or have seen your post shared in a relevant group/community/forum.
- They've clicked an advert that you were running.
For me this represents the most ideal traffic because it's the traffic that is going to end up buying something from me. Will they buy immediately? Sometimes, but that doesn't really matter. I don't try to sell to my audience with every piece of content I write.
What it does mean though is that this kind of traffic is likely to enjoy reading your stuff, and will engage with it, share it, and might even return.
This is why I personally don't bother with places like stumbleupon or why I only do social sharing with groups or followers who are interested in that specific topic. I don't want to waste my time attracting unqualified traffic.
Speaking of which, this is our Facebook group!
Why Marketers Love Organic Traffic
Free traffic from Google, living the dream!
The real reason why marketers love ranking their sites in Google and getting organic traffic is because it's scaleable and it's never ending. You write an article once, you get it to rank in Google, and it sends you traffic every day for as long as it ranks or as long as people search that term. In many cases, that period is years.
I have some articles ranking and bringing in daily traffic that are on articles I wrote in 2013. I didn't start marketing until late 2012, so that is essentially traffic that I've acquired for my whole internet marketing career.
These articles probably took me around an hour to research, another hour to write, and a few months to get to rank at the top of Google. After that, they've sent me visitors every day for over three years. Incredible when you think about it.
Could social traffic yield similar results?
Well, if you write something which goes viral and stays popular for years, then maybe, but how scalable is viral content? Can you do it every time?
You could also build a social following, or a Facebook group, or become active in other groups, and you could even automate the sharing of your content in those groups using tools like Buffer or Edgar, but you're just not going to get the same results.
Also, people are not actively seeking your content out like they are with organic traffic.
When someone finds your site after performing a Google search, you are giving them an answer to their question. If that question is “Which [whatever] should I buy?” then you can earn affiliate commissions every day.
Even if that question is something more general like “Why does [whatever]?”, you still have a good chance of turning that visitor into a fan, a subscriber, and later, a customer.
So organic traffic is endless, it's passive (once you have rankings), and it is in many cases highly qualified. It's certainly good quality.
For me, organic traffic will always be my focus, because it means I can worry less about getting traffic, and more about converting it into customers, and other aspects of my business. When you rely on referrals or social traffic, you tend to have to keep nurturing it for longer.
The Process Of Getting Organic Traffic
I hinted earlier that organic traffic can be passive, but this is only once you've got the ball rolling and earned yourself some high Google rankings. Nobody (ok, maybe your Auntie), searches beyond page 2 of Google, and most people barely even scroll down past the first few results.
Moz has published research previously stating that 46% of clicks go to the first three positions, which means that your end goal should be to get as many of your articles as possible to rank at the top of Google for their targeted keywords.
This isn't a process that happens overnight. It can take months, and in some cases you never quite reach position 1. It's the nature of the beast. Some of your content will get lost in the ether of page 2 and beyond, and that's the way it goes.
You can do keyword research to find search terms worth ranking for, and you can build links to get your rankings higher, but nobody knows exactly how Google determines which sites to put at the top.
Where I see most beginner marketers struggling is when they quit their sites too soon. They might have been at it for a few months, their site is ranking on page 2 of Google for most of their keywords, and they declare “It doesn't work, I can't get traffic, my site won't make money”.
Well hold on just a minute, but organic traffic doesn't come up in a nice gradual curve all of the time. What you'll find is that one or two of your articles will find its way to page one, and suddenly your traffic will increase dramatically. As your ranking shows up for more and more keywords, and in higher position's – more and more people will be clicking on your site.
Here's an example:
What you can see here is the weekly page views for 1 article on one of my sites. Initially, it didn't get many views, but as it climbed up the rankings and showed up for more and more search terms, traffic exploded.
You can see a spike in the middle of July thanks to PrimeDay, when people were searching for more product reviews thanks to Amazon promotions.
Now when your site is in its infancy and you have nothing but tumbleweed passing by, it can be depressing, but look how suddenly things change when the article ranks well.
Now, I don't have to do anything for that article, and people come back day after day.
So you can consider using social media to get traffic early on, but really, the end goal for you should be to get those organic rankings climbing. Make sure you optimize your site for that goal in mind at the beginning.
How To Increase Website Traffic & Gain Traction
A large part of “traction” comes from the above mentioned organic rankings, but you don't have to rely solely on organic. It's my favorite traffic source, but it's not my only source.
For HumanProofDesigns, when I first starting out, organic traffic took a long time to come in any significant numbers. In the meantime, I did guest posting on other sites, I was active on social media and shared my content with relevant groups.
I reached out to other influencers for them to tweet my articles, link to my site, and generally help make people aware of me.
Long story short, I hustled.
After six months, things took a turn for the passive. Now, I'm one of those influencers that other people reach out to, people link to me without my asking, and they share my posts on social media.
All of that combines to make my rankings in Google higher, so organic traffic climbs and climbs.
I haven't actively built a link or done any outreach since early 2015, but look how my traffic has trended up.
Note, people have still linked to me and featured me on their sites, I just didn't have to be proactive about seeking that link/feature.
This is why gaining traction is so great, and why it makes those early days of hustling and chasing traffic worth it.
If you imagine the work:results ratio for traffic in those early stages to be top-heavy on the work side, it's the complete opposite in the later stages, unless you want to keep up the scale and growth of course.
How User Behavior Can Affect Rankings
Another reason why you want targeted, relevant traffic is because of user engagement. It is widely believed that how users interact with your site is watched by Google, and can affect your rankings. In the most basic form, this is things like social shares. Someone visits your site, then shares it on social media, and Google takes that to mean they enjoyed your content.
In more advanced metrics, it can be something like a user visiting multiple pages on your site before leaving, or how long they spend in general.
With this in mind, you can see why you'd rather have visitors who are more likely to read your article than someone from say, stumbleupon, who may leave within seconds.
Besides, traffic that doesn't do anything is useless. As we'll see in the next part, if your traffic isn't engaging with your content, it doesn't matter how much of it you have.
When More Traffic Isn't The Right Answer
I once had a site that got 1,000 visits a day within several weeks. It was probably my third ever site, so I didn't really know what I was doing.
Getting 30,000 visits a month was amazing…ly frustrating, because it didn't earn me a dime. The traffic was targeting some info keywords like “30 questions to ask a guy”, and even though I had Adsense installed on my site, some affiliate offers spread throughout the content, and I tried everything else I could think of to monetize the site, I was barely making $10 a month with all that traffic.
Do you think the solution to my lack of income was more traffic? I already have 30,000 unique visitors a month! HPD still doesn't have that many and punches well above its weight income-wise.
You can apply this rule on a smaller scale as well, and think about whether your site needs some conversion optimization.
In this article, I talk about how I tweaked some things on my site, and it immediately went from $50 per month, to $300 per month, and then I was able to scale it up to $1,000 per month quite quickly. In this case, I already had a good amount of traffic, but the problem was that my promotions and site structure wasn't set up adequately to make the most out of that traffic.
Talking in more depth about this is beyond the scope of this article, but I wanted to use this opportunity to point out that in many cases you can get more out of your existing traffic, and you should never focus 100% of your efforts just on traffic acquisition.
Of course you need traffic above all else, or you won't be able to do much with your site. At the same time, you don't just need traffic for the sake of traffic. You need your traffic to be relevant, targeted, and interested in what you're writing/offering.
There are different forms of traffic, and some are going to make you more money than others, but you should diversify and particularly in the early stages, test different means of traffic acquisition. The best part about online marketing is that you can always test something and refine it. Whether you want to master paid traffic like Frank Kern or SEO like us, you'll always need keep optimizing.
Finally, think about the bigger picture and how traffic actually responds to your site. If you're not making much money despite having a lot of traffic, then the problem might be the wrong type of traffic, or it might be that your site isn't offering them what they need. Furthermore, it could simply not be set up right to help people find your offers or click your links.
My closing statement is this: Unless you are chasing paid traffic, be prepared to play the long-game, and don't give up when you are just around the corner from page one.