I know I might get lynched for this idea, but I feel that I need to put it out there. You don’t have to be a veteran of online marketing forums and internet marketing blogs to get the very distinct impression that almost everybody and his dog are focused on views. People are obsessed with basically driving as much traffic to their websites and generating views.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a firm believer in the iron rule of the internet. The iron rule, just in case you don’t already know, is that if you don’t get any traffic, you won’t make any money. On the internet, traffic is the mother’s milk of profits.
With that out of the way, it’s very easy to confuse page views, unique users, and unique views with actually making money online. This is where a lot of online marketers stumble and fall. They think that once they are able to create great content that draws all this traffic from social media channels, search engines, blogs, and related websites, they’ve won.
I’m sorry to break the bad news to you, but that’s just the beginning of your work. That’s just the beginning of the process. Simply knowing how to pump traffic is just one tiny part of a larger equation.
Unfortunately, you don’t get this impression when you read online marketing books and online marketing forums, or hang out at the Twitter feeds of many of the bigger names in internet marketing. They keep focusing on traffic, traffic, traffic that they barely touch on the very important question of, What are you going to do with that traffic once you have it?
The Problem with this Shallow Obsession with Traffic
The problem with just focusing on traffic is that you’re basically putting in all this time, effort, and energy pumping all this traffic, and settling for cents on the dollar. That is precisely what you’re doing when you’re putting in all this effort and you’re basically just content with a fraction of the money that your website could be making.
In fact, there are many websites out there that generate tons of traffic but make very little money. Some actually make no money at all.
The problem with this is that the owners or operators of these websites are just so obsessed with traffic that they leave out conversion.
Let me break this down to you. Let me be clear. I can’t phrase this in clear enough terms: Behavior counts more than views. Let me repeat that again. Behavior counts more that views.
This is the cornerstone of conversion rate optimization. You have to focus on the actual behavior of the people who go to your website. Just because they load page after page doesn’t really mean much if that’s not how you get paid. Just because they spend a lot of time on your website doesn’t necessarily count for much if it doesn’t convert to actual cold, hard dollars in your pocket. I hope the connection here is clear.
The focus of your traffic generation efforts and your content generation activities must be about producing the right kinds of behavior. Otherwise, you’re basically just wasting all that time, energy, and resources.
You can look at your statistics all you want, but if one key statistic is left out of the picture, you have essentially wasted all your time. What statistic am I talking about? I am of course talking about conversions.
I don’t care whether you make money through ad clicks, actual sales of products or services, referrals to affiliate products so you can make a commission, or you get paid when people leave their email in an email form. These are all behaviors that you should be targeting. These are all behaviors that you should be keeping an eye out for.
Unfortunately, the discussion often just turns on traffic and how traffic flows to your website, then all of a sudden the discussion stops. Case closed.
I’m sorry, but if that’s how you play the online content publication game, you are playing the game to lose. There are no two ways about it.
You have to first focus on conversions and then backtrack. What I mean by this is focus on the behavior that you want your traffic to engage in, and then think back to how you can engineer their experience on your website or on your content pages so that it would be easier for them to engage in that behavior.
Behavior Worth Optimizing For
I hope it’s clear that the behavior that you should be optimizing your content, website layout, and website navigation for must turn on how you make your money. Obviously, if you make your money by capturing leads, your conversion rate optimization campaign must focus on capturing email addresses. Similarly, if you make your money through ad clicks, then your optimization should be all about generating lots of page views so there’s a lot more opportunity for those paid ad clicks.
Conversion rate optimization must follow desired behavior, not the other way around.
With that said, there are still some other general behaviors that are worth optimizing for. I am of course talking about increasing the rate at which your visitors share your content.
Also, you should focus on making sure that your visitors read your website deeply. What I mean by this is that they should start out at one page, and then they keep bouncing from one section of your website to the other. All the while, you’re drawing them deeper and deeper into the guts of your website.
The idea is that the longer they stay on your website, the easier it is for you to convert them, either during that particular session or in the future.
Another metric of success you should keep an eye out for is comments. You have to remember that if you are running a blog and there are no comments, this means that your readers really don’t find your content engaging enough for it to be worth their time to comment on. Your comment volume is kind of a loose shorthand for engagement levels.
Of course, there are many different other ways to measure engagement, but never underestimate the power of comments. This can easily be a great signal for you to make some key changes to your content so you can increase overall engagement levels.
Engagement is Crucial to the Buying Process
I can’t emphasize this enough. User engagement is crucial for you to turn your traffic into cold, hard cash.
As you probably already know, and since I have talked about it so many times before, you have to engage your traffic in such a way that it fits neatly into where in the buying process they are. Some of your visitors are just looking for information because they’re just trying to know the niche. Others already like what you have to offer, and are looking to cement a relationship with you. Others already trust you and are looking to buy. These are completely different stages of the buying process.
Your content conversion rate optimization strategies must fit these stages like a glove; otherwise, you’re basically just losing the vast majority of your visitors while doing a poor job converting the ones that roughly fall into the stage of the buying process your content reflects.
The Cold, Hard Truth: Only a Percentage of Your Visitors are Your Customers
One of the most startling things that I learned personally is that only a small percentage of my site visitors are my actual customers. Due to a combination of different buying process dynamics and targeting, the vast majority of my website visitors are not my customers.
Not surprisingly, most of the traffic that flows through a typical website is temporary. Most of those people are never going to come back again. This is a cold, hard truth that you really have to wrap your mind around. You have to understand this and incorporate this into how you formulate your conversion rate optimization strategy. If you ignore this fact, you are basically setting yourself up for epic failure later on.
Turn Your Visitors into Community Members
With the cold, hard truth mentioned above firmly in mind, the solution is to not so much convert all the people that flow through your website, but instead create a thriving community so that the community acts as an interest filter. This is the best way to not just create a permanent baseline flow of traffic, but to also increase the overall conversion rate of your website as a whole.
Community Means Loyalty
The more community members you have, the more loyal members you have. Community and loyalty go hand in hand.
The good news is that when you cultivate loyalty, you build a springboard to conversion success. Loyalty is a key aspect of conversion, because when you create a hardcore loyal base, these are people who will generate you money not just once but many times over.
You have to look at your website as a conversion organism. At the end of the day, it’s not so much the volume of traffic you pump through your website, but the amount of traffic that’s left and will continue to come back for a long time to come. This is the winning strategy that you should focus on.