The first thing you’ll hear from any savvy online marketer is that you need a lot of traffic to make your site work. Indeed, most SEO experts pitch exactly that on their websites:
How they increased their site or page traffic, and how they can help you with yours.
You will find thousands of pages on how to effectively use SEO, make outreach strategies, bring in new audience, how to rank high in Google so you can get more views, and so on. Yes, this is an important facet of any modern business. After all, the more people see your site, the more potential customers you have. But is “More traffic = more money” that simple?
Sure, traffic is important, but this premise comes with a lot of fine print that shows it’s not exactly that straightforward. In order to understand the whole picture, we need to take into account some other factors, so let’s dig in!
What Brings Money Online:
The online ecosystem is pretty diverse, and this also shows in the astounding variety of ways you can earn money online. You can sell or resell all sorts of stuff and services, you can gamble or play games for money (if it’s legal in your country), you can become a publisher that earns money from advertising other businesses, and anything else imaginable in between.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on the online marketing game (although everything written here pretty much applies to any sort of online business). In this case, your money comes from advertising. Whether you’re using AdSense, or affiliate programs, the principle is the same.
Typically, you earn your commission when someone clicks on an ad on your page which redirects them to an advertiser’s website. Just clicking on the ad might not be enough. In some cases, advertisers will pay for a more active participation from the visitor you sent. They might pay you better if that person you sent to their site bought something, or at least left information to be contacted for potential purchases.
Obviously, no matter the payout method, you can benefit from high traffic, but what good are all those eyes on your site, if the fingers don’t click on the ads, or that little “buy” button?
This is where the question of how many of your visitors become your clients, or what your conversion rate is.
Conversion vs Traffic Metrics
Let’s take a look at the other side of that advertisement coin. For you to earn money from advertisement, there must be someone willing to pay for it. In the most general case a company wants to increase its traffic, so we come back to it.
The reason for this?
The amount of money they spend on online advertising doesn’t measure up to what they potentially earn from all these new customers. But again, traffic doesn’t guarantee purchases, which is why conversion is important.
Conversion simply means how many of your visitors you convert to paying customers (in one way or another). In the case of ads, it is usually measured through your click-through rate, or CTR, which shows a percentage of people that actually clicked on the ad, after seeing it.
So, what’s better for you?
To have 100 visitors with 20% conversion rate, or have a 1000 visitors with 1% conversion rate?
Simple math says that the first one will bring in 20 paying customers, and the other one 10. Of course, this doesn’t discredit the importance of high traffic at all, it just underlines the importance of convincing these people to do what you need them to do, be it click on the ad or to buy your product.
Another important thing to have in mind is your audience retention. If you build loyalty to your brand and have a lot of satisfied customers that can have a better impact on your revenue in the long run, than trying to swindle your audience with some misleading ads or cheap marketing tricks.
Satisfied customers become returning visitors and customers, and they might even become the promoters of your brand if they are really satisfied. Whether they are people that are simply satisfied with your products or content and recommend you to their friends, or full-on fans, they are worth their weight in gold.
This all means that you have to be active online and interact with your audience. You need to have a strong presence in social media, build your e-mail lists, ask for their opinion in the comments, and so on.
How to Optimize Your Site to Have the Best ROI
The one thing that is most important is what works for you. You should always assess the time and resources invested vs. the potential gain. This is where analytics and testing play a large role, so be sure to establish some sort of framework that you stick to, in order to measure your results in the most reliable way possible.
Take time to learn at least basic analytics, and how to measure some of the most important metrics. Even if you’re really not too tech savvy, don’t worry. Google offers basic analytics package that is fairly easy to use for the basic stuff you would need, particularly if you’re using AdSense.
If you get more ambitious or have an already developed business that you want to take to a next level, you can go with some of the third party analytics packages or hire one of the tons of marketing agencies to do your job for you.
Do the split, or A/B testing, in order to determine what kind of ads, copies, descriptions, designs, layouts, and landing pages get you the best result. Of course, be systematic about it, don’t change too many things at once, because you won’t be able to figure out how each change affects the performance.
Look for your audience feedback. This is where social media can help you tremendously, as well as any surveys you might make on your site. Even for such simple things as unsubscribes from your e-mail list.
In the end, no, the traffic is not the most important thing for your website success. Sure it is at the top of the list, but it shares the prize podium with conversion rates, brand building, and customer satisfaction and loyalty.
In order to build a successful site, you have to take all of these into account, along with how much you earn per customer (or per click, in the case of the ads), and how much it all costs you, both in time and money.
Any sort of business is a balancing act, so be sure to start on the ground before you move on to tight-roping between the buildings. And don’t forget your parachute!