Internet Marketing Isn’t a Buffet – Why You Need Quality Traffic Over Quantity
February 24, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park
Here 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
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?
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
Okay 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?
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