“He who can spend the most to acquire a customer, wins . . .” – Ryan Deiss
We’ve discussed getting your website right. But your website won’t serve you at all if there is no traffic coming to it. The good news is, traffic is in abundant supply; you just have to know how to divert some of that traffic to your website.
There are four main categories of traffic: paid, earned, organic, and owned.
With paid traffic you’re tapping into already existing traffic that other media entities and websites control. The most common here are Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn. But, this also refers to advertising on other sites that have niche traffic in your market space.
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Owned traffic is traffic that you own, and it refers primarily to your mailing list. We don’t include your website or social media properties here, because you don’t necessarily own this traffic, but it is traffic you control. We’ll discuss the details below.
Then there’s organic traffic, which we described in the previous chapter. This includes organic search and organic social.
Finally, there’s earned traffic. The most common forms of earned traffic are PR and guest blogging.
Paid traffic is the way to get traffic quickly to your website. It’s also the most expensive. In the age of social media and content marketing, marketing gurus have tended to dismiss paid traffic as not truly legitimate. Their argument is, if you’re any good at social media and content creation, why would you need to pay for traffic?
Well, there are three great reasons to drive paid traffic to your site.
1. Paid Traffic Is Immediate
The startup community has popularized the minimum viable product (MVP) concept. By creating a minimum viable product – either a product with the minimum number of features that allow you to offer something of value to a client, or maybe even just a sales page to gauge interest – you’re getting quick feedback from the market about what customers will pay for. It’s either fast fail, or fast success. With the MVP, you avoid long development cycles that last months or even years, only to find out that nobody wants what you’re selling.
Paid traffic can help you apply MVP principles to your landing pages, website, and offers. Paid traffic is like a faucet you can turn on and turn off at will. It allows you to drive visitors to your landing page or website, and get immediate feedback. Instead of waiting months for a page to rank on Google for certain search terms, you can find out today whether your page will convert customers.
2. It Allows You to Leapfrog the Competition
In the quote at the beginning of this chapter, marketing thought leader Ryan Deiss declared an age-old truth: “He who can spend the most to acquire a customer, wins.” Ryan Deiss actually got this from marketing legend, Dan Kennedy. In fact, Dan Kennedy made the explicit argument that you might even have to lose money on the first sale, but the payoff is that you beat your competition. He says, “ . . . the marketer with the willingness and ability to invest in acquiring customers, even losing money on the first sale AND with an effective strategy for maximizing customer value, has an enormous competitive advantage.”
Kennedy recognized that business owners would have a difficult time accepting this message, because it’s counterintuitive. But, think about this. If you are willing to lose money on an initial sale because of how much you were willing to spend on advertising, then maximize the value you provide by upselling and cross-selling, you can far exceed the results any of your competitors can achieve.
3. You Can Target Customers with Pinpoint Precision
Despite complaints that platforms like Google and Facebook have become “big brother,” tracking your every move and documenting your tastes, habits, and who you hang out with, the benefits to marketers are incredible.
Today, with Facebook advertising, for example, you not only can target specific audiences according to demographics, title, geography, age, gender and marital status, but you can target them by intent. For example, you can create a custom audience to advertise to, based on other pages they’ve liked and groups they’re members of. You can advertise to your competitor’s customers and prospects, the people most likely to respond positively to your message.
Earned traffic is one of the most powerful types of traffic you could get coming to your site. It’s the fancy name for PR. It’s when a blog with hundreds of thousands of readers, or a news site, or an influencer, mentions you.
There are three benefits to earned traffic: 1. The audience is already pre-disposed to react favorably to your offer; 2. It’s more likely to be the right audience for your brand; 3. It taps into the trust generated by the authority of an already prestigious and popular destination.
1. Audience Is Pre-Disposed Towards Your Offer
When an authoritative industry publication or news site like Forbes or CIO.com, or a blog with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, publishes an article about you, the traffic it sends to you already has a favorable opinion about your company. The site has conferred its authority to you when sending you the traffic. Visitors who come to you from one of these published articles are much more likely to subscribe to your content, contact your company, or contract your services.
In a case study mentioned in the book, The Content Promotion Manifesto by Chad Pollitt, an article appearing on a major media publication about the company in question boosted conversions on their website. The lead count went up 82 percent in the month the article was published compared to the prior month. Previous to the article being published, their site-wide conversion rate was only 3.9% from existing traffic. With the new traffic coming to the company’s website from the article, site-wide conversions grew to 9.4 percent, with the highest day bringing in 19.9 percent.
2. The Audience Is More Likely to be the Right Audience
If an article about your company, or an interview with you, is published on a major media publication, more than likely that publication is going to already have an audience that is aligned with your company. If you’re a software development company, an article about you in Information Week will bring IT managers, Directors of Engineering, and CIOs.
3. You Borrow the Trust of the Publication
Closely related to #1 above, traffic coming to you from earned media has a high level of trust. It’s a fundamental human psychological characteristic: we’re more likely to trust something when it comes from a third party than when we talk about ourselves. It’s why testimonials are so powerful. It’s why reviews on sites like Yelp are so valuable. It’s why referrals are more likely to turn into sales than cold prospects.
When a trusted source, like your best friend, or your favorite news publication, recommends your company, the person who comes to you already has a high level of trust about your company.
Organic traffic is what search engines or your social media channels send you. They’re both organic, but they’re different.
1. Organic Search Engine Traffic
Organic search traffic is intent-based traffic. People are searching for answers to very specific questions on Google, Bing or Yahoo.
Google, which controls 75% of the search market, has one goal when it comes to search: “ . . . to provide the best results possible to your query.” As a result, Google’s search bots scout the web looking for the best content to answer its users’ billions of questions. As a company with a website, you need to help Google find your useful content and answer the burning questions on your prospects’ minds. Organize the content on your site so it’s useful, easy to understand, and comprehensive.
Google looks at the quality of your content. It also looks at the signals that more authoritative sites send about your content. If your content is good, then an authoritative site might link to a page on your site. This is a “yes” vote in your favor, telling Google that your content is relevant and valuable.
But Google also emphasizes your UX. It’s not enough to publish high quality information. Your site must be easy to use, easy to understand, and fast. Google looks at your site’s load speed, and will demote sites that take too long to load.
With Google’s “mobilegeddon” algorithm update of April 2015, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, it will also get demoted.
Finally, Google actively tries to eliminate low-quality content from its search engine results pages (SERPs). This can be content that is too short, poorly written, or not relevant.
So how do you drive higher organic traffic to your site?
Focus on publishing high quality content that provides value to your audience. Value means content that is relevant, educational, informative, comprehensive, thorough, easy-to-consume, and visual.
In his article Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List (this post is an example of the kind of content Google loves), Brian Dean provides a comprehensive overview of what Google takes into consideration when prioritizing websites and pages.
What really stands out on this list is that the longer the content, the better. This is very counter-intuitive. Most of us assume that shorter content is better. We think, “People don’t read, so we need to write 300 or 400-word blog posts.”
Most nearshore outsourcing companies make the “short content is better” mistake. They tend to publish shorter articles on their blogs. This error isn’t limited to smaller nearshore companies. Even the largest nearshore outsourcing providers tend to publish shorter content! But, these articles are not very valuable, at least according to Google. In research conducted by SerpIQ, they found that the longer the content, the higher in the SERPs the content appeared.
2. Organic Social Media Traffic
According to Michael Stelzner, CEO of Social Media Examiner, organic social media traffic is dead. In fact, in an interview with the hosts of the Perpetual Traffic podcast, Stelzner says that only 4% of the traffic to his site – the most important site on the topic of social media – comes from organic social media!
Stelzner said that people do share content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but, typically, they share it to look good to their peers. Most people don’t read the content shared on social media.
I would not recommend using organic social media as a strategy to drive traffic to your website. Social media is better used as an engagement tool with current clients, or as a customer service platform.
If you focus on Facebook, Stelzner recommends using Facebook Live video, not as a way to drive traffic to your website, but as a way to build a responsive community within Facebook.
Owned traffic refers to your subscribers – and this means email. In a world of social media, email is more relevant than ever. In fact, email is so important that Social Media Examiner has made getting subscribers to their email newsletter their number one goal!
Owned traffic is the best traffic you can get. Subscribers to your email list have given you permission to send them content, and the occasional commercial message. By subscribing to you, they have made a small commitment towards your company that takes them closer to becoming an actual customer than somebody who arrives as cold traffic to your website.
Getting subscribers is the best way to continue to feed people your blog content every time you publish something new. It’s also the best way to sell to them. I’ll get into more detail in Chapter 7, when I discuss “Escalation.”
The most important benefit of owned traffic is that you have your own audience. You don’t have to rely on Google organic results and its ever-changing search algorithm. You don’t have to rely on organic social traffic, and its diminishing effectiveness. You don’t have to rely on the constant investment into paid traffic. And, you don’t have to rely on the constant PR hustle to get major media properties to write about you.
Owned traffic is really the end goal of all the other forms of traffic mentioned here. Paid, earned, and organic traffic should lead to owned traffic, which means building your own audience, which means building your subscriber base.
That means you should act like your own media company. The internet has leveled the playing field, and has made it possible for every company to become its own media company.
What is central to the business model of media companies? That’s right: subscribers!
I’ll end this chapter with the sage words of digital marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk:
“Whether you like it or not, every person is now a media company. The tools are easy, free, and everywhere. More importantly, producing content is now the BASELINE for all brands and companies. It literally doesn’t matter what business you’re in, what industry you operate in, if you’re not producing content, you basically don’t exist. So, what’s your excuse?”