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If you’ve ever had your own website, you probably know that the first thing you need to do in order to promote it is to get traffic. Then you can install Google Analytics and track that traffic, learn more about visitors, where do they come from etc.
The need for getting traffic is emphasized a lot. Actually, it is emphasized to that extent that people forgot one fundamental thing:
- A visitor to your site, by itself, is useless. If a particular group of visitors from a traffic source don’t do anything then why bother attracting them in the first place? Yet, millions of webmasters do it every single day. They put traffic before money. All of this because of one fundamental assumption.
If you have traffic, you’ll eventually make money. THIS IS NOT TRUE.
How do I know this?
Because I’ve taken this concept the extreme. I created a site which ranked in the top 10.000 most visited websites in the world (according to Compete.com). I got all my traffic from Digg/StumbleUpon, thousands unique visitors per day. I actually got on the Digg front page 5-6 times and frequently got 30.000+ views from Stumbleupon on each of my articles. The whole site got over half a million unique visitors in 6 months.
My assumption was: Boy, I have so much traffic, once I put something like AdSense, I’ll be making decent amount of money. Maybe like $10 a day. So I put AdSense and waited for 3 days…
…and I made less than $1 a day. The CTR was less than 0.1%. Ouch! The sad thing was that I was working on the site for more than 6 months (you think getting into top 10.000 on Compete is easy?) and was operating under this flawed assumption.
I could have also made money via pay-per-view (some sites pay max. $2 per 1000 views) but still that would have been less than $1000.
This is the reason, I think, people accept this assumption without being critical of it all. It sounds easy, comforting. Something like having a day job, you know that if you work for a month you’ll get the salary. Same here, just work on the traffic and the money will come. As we’ve seen, this is far from the truth.
There are exceptions, though, and this is where traffic is taken to the extreme. If you capture an enormous number of visitors (20.000+ a day) then you should make some money. Facebook has millions of visitors per day and they make a lot of money. What about Twitter? Well, they also have a lot of visitors but haven’t figured how to make money yet. Some people take Facebook/other high-traffic sites as an example that traffic = money. However:
a) Not everyone can have millions of visitors on their website per day. The number of people online is limited, so you’re way better off focusing first on monetization and then on traffic.
b) You will need a lot of luck to get to the size of Facebook. You also have a big competition for traffic. Many people are myopic in terms of blindly competing for traffic without realizing that, if they were to have a business online, their first priority should be MONEY, not traffic.
And if you think about this, the sheer amount of volume Facebook got allowed them to attract a whole different range of advertisers a smaller site would have no way of attracting.
I met people who are making barely $300 with 100.000+ visitors coming from Stumbleupon/Digg. On the other hand, I’ve met people who are making $10.000 with around 30.000 visitors coming from Google/other high-quality traffic source. The idea I want to propose here is to focus on MONETIZATION first and TRAFFIC after that (like most businesses do).
When was the last time…you’ve seen a fastest growing business focus on getting prospects first without selling anything? Most of them actually have their own products which is (and will probably always be) the best way to make money in any industry. The reason for this is probably because you have the most opportunities when you’re making your own product: you can do PR, SEO, paid traffic, pay bloggers to blog about your product etc. You can then carefully analyze and see which traffic source brings most sales and focus on that. Then you have the word-of-mouth advantage, you’ll have people that will spread the word to their friends and you’ll also have repeated customers.
There’s one great feature in Google Analytics called GOALS. If you have an Adsense account, you can automatically link Analytics + AdSense and the goals will be set up automatically for you. In case you’re selling a product you’ll need to do the setup yourself.
For example, you can count as ‘goal’ the moment someone gets to the ‘thank you for purchasing’ page. What that means is that they’ve gone through all the steps like taking a look at your product, going through the shopping card, entering their payment details and purchasing.
Google Analytics can then tell you what referrers sent you the biggest % of people who completed a goal (purchased your product). For example, if you’re selling an anti-virus software, you might discover that 3% of the people who type ‘good antivirus software’ on Google but your product. You might also discover that you did a recent PR campaign and people coming from some famous magazine tend to buy more than average.
In that case, you’ll want to do more work for those traffic sources. Let’s take the previous example. If you rank #4 for ‘good antivirus software’, you might want to get to #1 in order to receive a bigger number of people who will eventually convert at 3%. Or you might want to create a deeper relationship with that famous magazine so they do more cover for your software.
Another good strategy is to focus on the low-hanging fruit. Identify traffic sources outside of the top 10 that brought you a sale or two. Do some research on them and see if you can bring more visitors from these traffic sources to see how they convert at a bigger scale. For example, you might notice that you got 2 sales from some old guest post you did. What about doing another guest post on that blog? Let’s suppose you did another guest post and saw that people convert consistently from that blog. Here’s an opportunity for forming a deeper relationship and posting regularly there.
Mark Joyner, the founder of Simpleology told one really profound story. While Mark was in the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School, they had an instructor whom they called Yoda because of his superior skills/accomplishments. One day they had a class from Yoda. He asked his students “What is the one skill that defines a leader?” Many people tried to guess. Some guy said “Communication skills!” Yoda replied: “Oh really? So let’s have you have a suicidal tactical and you communicate it oh so clearly to your troops. That makes you a leader?”
Another fellow student tried to guess: “It’s charisma!” Yoda replied: “Oh, are you joking? So you’re a tactical moron but you look good in your BDUs. I just wrote your tombstone for you. No charge. Next!”
And so it went and nobody was able to say what’s the defining characteristic of a leader.
Then Yoda finally told the answer:
“The one skill that defines a leader is the ability to see the battlefield”.
A really profound lesson. When you think about it, it might have been obvious…what’s the use of communicating clearly or having charisma when you can’t figure out what’s going on the battlefield?
In the business battlefield, money is the main way businesses keep score. But can you see the battlefield? Can you see where money comes from? You decide. Focusing on traffic for a long period of time without focusing on promotion is ignoring to see the battlefield for a long time.
Of course, you should focus on traffic but always ask yourself whether it brings you money/any other benefit. For example, you might want to test some traffic source. Bring some visitors from it and see whether they buy your product/affiliate product/click on ads.
The main point is, traffic does not always equal money. The best way to see whether a particular traffic brings money is to test and not just assume.
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