Not All Traffic Is Created Equal

You can dig Digg, but don't count on Digg

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For a long time there’s been a certain amount of obsession among webmasters about building traffic—any traffic—for websites. But really, especially if you’re location-based, the focus should be on building the right traffic.

Of course, search takes center stage in that struggle, but more recently social media sites like Digg.com and BoingBoing have captured the imaginations of traffic-obsessed marketers. Here’s what many of them discover, though: traffic bursts from those sites do little for sales.

That’s because most that show up at your website’s door aren’t looking for your site, product, or service specifically; they’re looking to graze and move on. Seth Godin reports that 75% of "unfocused visitors" bounce within three seconds, leaving the webmaster with more server issues than increased sales. He calls this "silly traffic."

That’s not to say there’s no benefit in traffic bursts. If you run a content site, i.e., content is the product, then boosts to your traffic numbers and pageviews only help the business. Cracked.com, for example, seems to have really mastered the Diggbait game with list articles and titles like "The 11 Most Unintentionally Gay Rap Lyrics Ever." If Cracked sold merchandise (and they might, I didn’t check), the Digg Effect can only help that side of the business, too.

What Cracked has done right here, echoing Godin’s advice for focusing on and engaging existing visitors, is provide an interactive experience for readers. But also, from a branding perspective, whatever the rate of bouncing visitors, those bursts aren’t for naught. If you’re able to generate bursts consistently, you build familiarity and reach, which in theory generate more sales.

Still, many aren’t interested in the macro-elements associated with branding. They’d rather focus on the nitty-gritty, the proven sales boosters, the more directly measurable strategies. My friend, Shaun, for example, whose specialty is wedding photography in Lexington, Ky., isn’t as interested in building global traffic to his website and increasing pageviews as he is about generating local business. (A little out-of-area exposure helps, though, as he’s on his way to Los Angeles next month to work with the best.)

His main site, since it focuses on photography, is Flash-based. Because he knows search engines don’t dig on Flash, Shaun created a blog the search crawlers can read. This is a place for him to sell himself as well as his services, and to talk about the business in general. As you might imagine, unless he becomes a national brand one day, he has little use for bursts of traffic from Digg.com, even if it couldn’t hurt.

Instead, he’s made use of a Facebook profile (pretty appropriate given the yearbook-ish concept), of photography forums, and of local search keywords and maps*. By doing this, he has not only created a brand for himself (which is immensely important), but has also found a way to drive targeted, purposeful traffic from those actually interested in his services, or, as described earlier, the right traffic.

*He probably should look into Twitter, too, especially since Twitter ranks so well on Google, but also because he can build a nice local following that way. 

Not All Traffic Is Created Equal
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