Internet Marketing Isn’t a Buffet – Why You Need Quality Traffic Over Quantity

February 24, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park  

buffetHere in Chicago, it’s Restaurant Week. Over 130 eateries set up 3-course prixe-fixe menus for lunch and dinner and you can sample a variety of the best foods for affordable prices. This of course got me thinking about Internet marketing (ok, maybe I’m a little obsessed) and the parallels between eating and generating traffic. Like food, the quality of traffic matters. Sure you can go to a cheap buffet and eat anything and everything, but at the end of the day you won’t be satisfied. In the same way, you can get any old traffic to your site but it probably won’t convert to make you money.

Are you guilty of putting quantity over quality? It may be tempting to get more and more traffic, but it’s better to strive for higher quality that actually converts.

4 reasons why traffic quality is important

Higher conversions

Why are you running your website? Is it to show off your traffic stats and brag about how many people visit every day? Or is it to actually make money and get your message out to interested visitors? High quality traffic means you get a higher conversion rate (sales, subscriptions, etc). In other words, you make a lot more money with a lot less traffic. For example, a front page Digg story may get you 20,000 visits in a day but 0 conversions. On the other hand, a well targeted PPC campaign could get you only 100 visits but 5 conversions. See the difference? 

Better ROI

In this tough economy, it’s important to track everything you’re doing and measure results. You essentially want to focus on the marketing efforts that bring you the highest return. High quality traffic is crucial because it increases your ROI – you pay less for advertising and traffic but you make more money because the conversion rates are high. For example, say that you have a membership site about digital photography that you want to promote. Exposure being the same, would you rather pay $100 to advertise on the Yahoo homepage or a digital photography forum? The Yahoo homepage is tempting, but the photography forum will bring in a lot more qualified leads.

More loyal users

Not only do high-quality visitors convert at a higher rate, but they’re also more likely to come back again and refer your site to their friends and family (this sort of valuable traffic is free to you). Targeted traffic may be more expensive to attain but it’s well worth it for this reason alone. You gain more loyal users who will evangelize your site to others and jump start a community. These are the kinds of people you want using your site.

Consistent marketing message

Finally, sticking with targeted traffic means that you can keep your marketing message simple, consistent, and to the point. Rather than trying to sell an idea to the masses, you sell something desirable to people who already want and have a need for it. It’s much easier to fulfill a need than to create one.

The 5 Levels of Traffic Quality

quality over quantityOkay so now you understand why the quality of your traffic is so important. But what do I mean when I say “high quality”? In the section below I’ll explain the different types of traffic targeting and how you can increase quality for each.

The most important thing is to first determine your main conversion metrics. You won’t be able to assess quality until you have this in place. For example, if your main conversion is a sale, quality of traffic is based on how likely it is that a visitor buys. If your conversion is just brand awareness, then quality is based on how well the visitor fits into the target audience (demographics, preferences, etc.).

1. Free-for-all general traffic – low quality traffic

General traffic is by the far the lowest quality and the least effective. Since you don’t know who you’re reaching you’re essentially taking a big risk by assuming someone is actually interested in what you have to offer. You throw mud at the wall and see what sticks. Conversion rates are very low and you’d be lucky to pick up a good amount of conversions going this route.  An example would be advertising on the Yahoo homepage, general directories, and general non niche-specific sites.

Tip: Avoid advertising on general sites whenever possible. There are a lot of targeted options out there that will give you a bigger bang for your buck.

2. Geographic & demographic targeting – so-so quality traffic

Depending on what your site is about, your topic will generally cater to a specific geographic/demographic audience. For example, if you have a site about UFC mixed martial arts, your target audience would be young males in their 20s to 30s. On the other hand if you had a site about gardening, your target audience would be affluent people age 50+ living in the suburbs. The more research you do and the more granular you can get with your target audience, the higher the quality of your traffic.

Tip: Get involved in the communities of your niche and research the demographics of your audience. If you want solid data to support your theories, use Quantcast to get a breakdown of traffic demographics. For an example take a look at the Winning the Web Quantcast site data

Once you have your target audience down, use Facebook ads to target people who would be interested in your offer. You can segment by geographic location, age group, marital status, education, hobbies, etc. Facebook is probably the best way to target a huge pool of people solely by location and demographics (who doesn’t have Facebook these days?).

3. Group targeting – good quality traffic

Stepping up from demographics, a better way of targeting your audience is to see where your potential customers are actually going online. For example, in the Internet marketing niche, there are a few sites that almost every Internet marketer at least knows about and visits. These include forums like Digital Point and Warrior Forum and blogs like Shoemoney, Problogger, John Chow, and Winning the Web (ok, maybe that one’s a stretch.. :P). Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and find relevant sites that you can generate traffic from.

Group targeting is an upgrade from demographics targeting because you know for certain that a person is interested in your topic. When you work only with demographics, you’re making a lot of assumptions that may not necessarily be true (e.g. not all 20-30 year old males like mixed martial arts fighting).

Tip: Find the hubs of your particular niche and get exposure to your own site through them. You can do this in the form of partnerships, advertising, and guerilla marketing (e.g. blog comments).

4. User intent targeting – great quality traffic

What are your customers looking for when they arrive at your site. Are you able to deliver? The best way of capitalizing on user intent is through the search engines. Since users type in search queries that reveal what they’re after, you can take advantage of this by optimizing for keywords that will bring in highly qualified traffic. For example, if you have a site that sells running shoes, which keyword would bring in higher quality traffic – “running shoes” or “buy nike air max running shoes”? Since the second keyword is transactional (as opposed to informational for the first one), the user is much more likely to buy and make you money. Search is an extremely powerful marketing channel, and you should be utilizing both SEO and PPC to capitalize on user intent and bring in qualified leads.

Adding user intent leads to higher quality traffic than group targeting because you not only know what the user is interested in, but you also know what they’re looking for (e.g. “harry potter” vs. “harry potter 5 book review”).

Tip: Target specific high-conversion keywords to increase the quality of traffic coming from search (both SEO and PPC).

5. Opt in targeting – excellent quality traffic

Finally, the best type of traffic comes from people who already know about your site and visit often. These people typically arrive at your site directly through bookmarks, opt in to your newsletters, participate in the community, and frequently buy your products. This is the best type of traffic because it’s based on trust. These visitors like and trust you and will stay with you as long as you continue to provide good value.

Tip: Build a brand around your site and engage users whenever possible. Send out newsletters to visitors who opt in and create a free product of some sort to encourage people to sign up. Your goal is to create personable bonds with your visitors so that they become loyal fans and brand evangelists.

The key to high quality traffic is to test, test, test. Use the 5 different types of targeting I listed above as a starting point and see what works best for you. Check your analytics data frequently to assess what types of traffic convert best. Your time, attention, and resources are very limited (like the space in your stomach for food) so you want to be sure that you get the most high-impact traffic possible.

How is the quality of the traffic that you drive to your sites? Do you scarf down food at the buffet? Or do you wine and dine yourself at fine restaurants?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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42 Responses to “Internet Marketing Isn’t a Buffet – Why You Need Quality Traffic Over Quantity”

Justice O. Omorodion on February 25th, 2009

Wow! Marvelous post concerning how to pay close attention to the kind of traffic we want to generate to our website. I like The 5 levels of traffic quality you present there. Is not about quantity of traffic we get but the quality that count. Thanks for giving out this brilliant ideas…

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Thanks Justice. Definitely, quality over quantity especially if you’re trying to make money online.

Dean Saliba on February 25th, 2009

I’m running my blogs soley to make money, no hiding that fact.

At the moment I’m not selling my readers anything and I earn money for every reader who visits my blogs so I’m interested in quantity of traffic over quality.

But some time later this year I’m going to start affiliate marketing and my above atitutde will need to change or the crap will really hit the fan!

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Hey Dean,
Believe it or not, you’re still “selling” something to your readers whether or not you have a product of your own. Affiliate products, advertisements, ideas – these are all things that you want to get across to your audience and ultimately make money. High quality traffic will definitely help you to reach your goals in this case and make the most money with your blogs as possible.

Chung Bey Luen on February 25th, 2009

Excellent post, I particularly like the way you classify Internet traffic into 5 categories.

leanie belle on February 26th, 2009

I believe so, quaility is better than quantity. Generating more traffic to our sites is what we really aim for to achieve success. This points would be a great guideline on how to prioritize the things that we have do to do in terms of generating traffic to our sites.

Leanie Belle – Your First 100 Dollars Online

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Hm, good suggestion. I would recommend working with your budget and resources to get the best traffic quality possible. For example, targeted traffic is going to cost you a lot more than free for all traffic but it’ll lead to a lot more conversions.

Domain Superstar on February 26th, 2009

Great job segregating the different types of traffic. All traffic is definitely not created equal.

Nick Stamoulis on February 27th, 2009

Exactly, what good is a bunch of untargeted traffic that doesn’t convert. You need targeted traffic that will engage on your site.

Melvin on March 1st, 2009

Wow great read. the reason why most people settle for free traffic is because they’re free. but then i see they dont realize that for free traffic to work, you have to exert a lot of effort. these effort would be wasted then because the traffic is of a low quality..

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Well just because traffic is free doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be low quality. For example, posting on a relevant forum might not cost you anything, but it’ll still bring in targeted traffic to your own site.

Associate Money on March 1st, 2009

I love how you segregate traffic into 5 different types. In the beginning, I guess it is about receiving any type of traffic and getting the exposure.

I will be thinking hard about building a brand and engaging to get excellent quality traffic.

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

I disagree that “in the beginning it is about receiving ANY type of traffic and getting exposure.” If anything you want your initial traffic to be the most targeted so that that you can define your brand and get the right type of visitors setting the tone for your site.

Make Money Online on March 1st, 2009

Gyutae, I really wonder how you get so many Sphinns each time you post an article? Would love to hear from you

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Haha, that’s not really relevant to this post but I’m pretty active in Sphinn and have good relationships with a lot of the main players.

smashill on March 1st, 2009

Well, a front page on digg might not only lead to traffic and even give you quite a lot links to your site. Targeted traffic is the best traffic, so I guess organic is not only the way to go when you are shopping for food. Organic Search Engine traffic is the king of conversions, and the cheapest of them all if you manage to do it yourself 😉

Gennaro on March 1st, 2009

One of the interesting things about blogging is that succeeding in one area doesn’t necessarily mean succeeding in another. If you work very hard to get significant traffic it doesn’t mean it will lead to purchases especially with affilitiates. It is likely that more conversion or clicks will take place with heavy search engine traffic. That takes time to develop and deliver though.

Ann Arbor Web Design on March 1st, 2009

Thanks for an illuminating post! That drew my attention to the fact that one needs to attract quality traffic not just any old traffic. I suppose here, quantity certainly does not equal quality.

Brian D. Hawkins on March 1st, 2009

Hi Gyutae, this ties in closely to my last post but you did a much better job than I. The 5 levels of traffic quality is perfect. I think I’ll like to this post so everyone reading my post can benefit from yours too.

BTW, that’s funny that Restaurant Week made you think about Internet Marketing. I just did the same thing when I bought some Girl Scout cookies a few days ago. Eating the cookies and thinking about the marketing success lol

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Thanks Brian, I’d appreciate the link. I’ll try to check out your post on the topic as well.

Girl scout cookies, eh? So how does that relate with marketing success? 😛

Yan Susanto on March 1st, 2009

Excellent tips, Gyutae. I love the fact that you not only mention the “whys” and break it down into the important “hows”. It’s true. Traffic without conversion is pretty useless, just like getting to the front page of Digg. I wonder why many are still obsessed with it.

Anyway, thanks for the last tip – opt in targeting. It’s one of the greatest mistake I made when I started my blog and still is.


Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Social media traffic is “sexy” because it’s represents huge numbers and getting on the front page is something to brag about. But at the end of the day, you could probably get more targeted traffic elsewhere.

How would you do things differently with your blog if you knew about the opt-in targeting?

clickktdotcom on March 2nd, 2009

Excellent tips. I love the ” The 5 Levels of Traffic Quality “.
Thanks for tip.

Erica on March 2nd, 2009

Very good analogy… Quality traffic is similar to the 80/20 rule. The top 20% will generate 80% of your revenue. It is good to remember this when marketing your products on your website.
I previously worked in the restaurant industry and quickly learned, it was better to work a slow Sunday night when loyal regulars who paid well came in , than work a busy Friday night, where you worked harder, made the same amount or maybe less because the quality clients were not there. The same idea goes for quality traffic.

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Hi Erica,
That’s pretty much true. I love the 80/20 rule as it applies to pretty much everything that I do. Great analogy with the restaurant clients.. hm is that really true? 😛

Cheap Phone Calls on March 3rd, 2009

Great post. It is always an important point to bring in the quality targeted traffic than just many random visitors. It’s nice to keep the bounce rate low and the conversions high. 🙂

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Agreed. Traffic numbers by themselves don’t mean much. Looking at conversions, time on page, bounce rate, etc will help you to better understand the quality of your leads.

LEVELTWO on March 3rd, 2009

Great write up! We’ll be posting a summary for your post on our blog and linking back here.

Great work.


Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Awesome, thanks! I appreciate the links and exposure.


Quality is always preferable over quantity. This lesson has been hammered into my heads since high school and whilst doing sales training as a junior sales representative early on in my life.

The buffet analogy is a very cool one, with the point being that having too much choice isn’t always going to lead to a satisfactory outcome, for all parties concerned.

Your five levels of traffic really sums it up succinctly, and all of us definitely wishes for as much level 5 traffic as posible!

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

While the concept may seem obvious to you, for some people quantity IS quality. For example, they’re more satisfied by a cheap buffet than a smaller fine meal. If you port that over to marketing, you have trouble.

Mike Huang on March 7th, 2009

This is basically DIGG vs StumbleUpon, lol 🙂

Bidet on March 8th, 2009

I agree, getting targeted traffic is always better than just plain traffic. A lot of times if the traffic is un-targeted they will just visit your site and leave with out checking it out.

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Yep, that’s true. For example, I’ve received thousands of visits from an unrelated source – with the average time on site being just a couple seconds. Definitely not the quality I’m looking for.


Good post.There is no point in doing every single marketing tactic ever invented.Stick to things like writing/submitting articles, blogging and forums.

Gyutae Park on March 13th, 2009

Hey Tom,
You definitely shouldn’t try to perform every single marketing tactic. There just isn’t enough time.. However, you should try to focus on the strategies that bring you the highest quality traffic – which will mean more conversion and more money for you.

Kai Lo on March 27th, 2009

I find the Digg traffic to be very low in quality. When I get put into the front page of Digg, I get a lot of traffic, but the bounce rate is extremely high, and most of those people will never come back again.

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