Traffic for Traffic’s Sake
Most of us want to be noticed. Bloggers like readers. Politicians like press. Non-profits like donors. Businesses like prospects and love customers.
So any traffic you get for your blog or web site is good, right? Not according to Scott Karp, Matt Bailey, and Kim Berg. All have looked at the question of whether the raw traffic spikes from social tagging sites like Digg or del.icio.us are worth it and uniformly conclude it probably isn’t in most cases. They contend that visitors that come through these tagging sites come in quickly and leave just as fast. Worse, they often leave a raft of ugly comments in their wake.
Yet Danny Sullivan argues that social search sites like those are now generating more web traffic referrals to many sites than the second tier search engines (in other words, anyone but Google). He encourages marketers to pay attention to these traffic drivers.
So who is right? Like most things in life and business, it depends. If you are running a site that depends on page views to sell advertising inventory, most non-bot traffic will be helpful regardless of the source. But what if you are selling on a cost-per-click basis? And are you OK with clickthru rates dropping if this “hit-and-run” traffic doesn’t click on many ads, as many argue.
Essentially, web site operators and bloggers need to make sure they really understand their objectives well. If you’re trying to build subscriptions to your blog through RSS or email, this hit and run traffic doesn’t serve you well. If your focus is becoming an expert in a niche, this traffic probably doesn’t help. If you’re selling a product and getting mostly unqualified leads as visitors, you’re wasting bandwidth serving these clicks.
The web is no different than any other thing that you or your organization does. You need to have a plan and understand how various marketing methods can help or hurt. It is often said in Washington that members of the House of Representatives (who are always press hungry and get less media attention than their Senate counterparts) who really want to get on TV need only head to the House floor and disrobe. Just like social search traffic, however, it may not be the kind of coverage that helps.
Just remember that traffic for traffic’s sake makes no sense. Traffic is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Know your goals and carefully assess the real value of whatever traffic your site receives and adjust your plan to maximize its effectiveness.