Believe it or not, there’s a lot more traffic on the internet besides SEO traffic. After all, as important and powerful as search engines may be, they are not the complete story when it comes to internet traffic. There are many ways you can get traffic from the internet. In fact, if you get on a website that allows you to build a link that links out to an outside site, you are looking at a potential source of traffic. It really is that basic?
Traffic, if you are open-minded enough and unafraid, can be found everywhere. The problem is, many online marketers get caught up in the value of search engine traffic. They think that the best traffic comes from search engines. This is not necessarily true. You can get tons of traffic and still fail to make money. Just because search engines send traffic your way, doesn’t necessarily mean that mass of people will buy, click on ads or leave an email.
In many cases, more is not necessarily better. With that said, it’s too easy to get dependent on search engine traffic. After all, this is the kind of traffic that pretty much pumps automatic visitors to your website. It does this on a 24/7 basis. Moreover, search engine traffic is a traffic that is generated when people form an intent regarding a particular topic. Basically, you get people right at the time they’re thinking about whatever it is that you are promoting.
Considering how powerful search engine traffic is, it is too easy to get dependent on it. It is too easy to get addicted to it. The problem is, if you base your whole website and your whole online marketing strategy around getting search engine traffic, you might be painting yourself in a corner. The eight hundred pound gorilla in the room of course is how Google feels in a certain year. You have to remember, a lot of people lost their search traffic overnight when Google rolled out Google Panda, Google Penguin and Google Hummingbird. In many cases, staying one step ahead of Google has become a full-time job. If you are looking for quality traffic, it’s probably a good idea to still pursue search engine traffic, but at the same time look at your website as if SEO didn’t exist. These two are not mutually exclusive. If you craft a strategy that is post-SEO, you might be laying a sustainable framework for success in the future.
Getting Back to Basics: The Essence of Traffic
The focus of any moneymaking website is to generate traffic. Your focus should be on making traffic regardless of its source your own. This should be the end goal of your traffic generation initiatives. If you are looking at this whole project with an eye towards generating traffic for the sake of traffic, you’re basically spinning your wheels. You’re basically wasting your time.
Why? As mentioned above, more is not necessarily better. You can target all sorts of unrelated keywords or you can try to trick people to visit your website. If you just go after raw numbers in terms of traffic, you would be going through a huge number of visitors and have very little to show for it. The essence of driving traffic to your online property is to make that traffic your own. A key way to do this is to root your traffic generation’s root based on your traffic’s actual needs. What’s the point of a pet training website when your website has nothing to do with pet training? See where I’m headed?
Focus instead on traffic that you can make your own. Otherwise, all that time, effort and energy you put into generating that traffic is wasted. Traffic has to bear a minimum work with your website’s objectives.
Turning Traffic Into Community
One key objective that every website should work towards is building community. If you compare websites that are truly successful and that make a lot of money, they have strong communities. It doesn’t matter when you’re looking at YouTube or Reddit. Big websites have big communities. They have reached that threshold when they turned raw traffic into a vibrant online community.
The reality is that any website can produce traffic. You can post a controversial blog post for example and generate a huge amount of traffic overnight. Guess what? All that traffic will be gone almost instantly. In fact, most of that traffic will quickly bounce out of your website. It’s like a massive sugar high. It feels great, but really there is no lasting effect. Worst of all, you’re not any richer driving all that traffic than you were before. A raw or even targeted traffic, it’s not necessarily converting traffic. You must focus on converting as much of your traffic as possible into community traffic.
What is community? A community is basically a baseline number of people that will continuously visit your website because they like your website. They get something tangible out of your website. These benefits can be psychological. It can be emotional. It can even be social. Visiting your website may give them a certain status among their friends or people that they associate with. Regardless, the bedrock of a solid online community is value to visitors. It’s too easy to focus on content as the main ingredient of building community. While it is true that content helps get the community ball rolling, it is not the secret ingredient. Everything must fit together to create community. It is not just your content. It is how people interact while they’re on your website. It is how you talk to people on their website. Most importantly, it’s the emotional investment they get when interacting both with your website as well as your content and other members.
Look Beyond Sales
I know this might seem almost blasphemous, but bear with me. If you want your website to survive Google’s mood swings, you have to look beyond sales. You have to get off the bandwagon that believes that for you to make money, you have to have a huge amount of traffic. Instead of traffic volume, you should focus more on traffic quality. You can get all the traffic in the world, but if your website doesn’t appeal to the needs of that traffic, you’re basically just wasting your time. The best type of traffic is community traffic. In other words, you’ve taken all this traffic, then you converted it into your own. This steady stream of people, regardless of how modest the number is, can actually be your website’s greatest asset.
Why? An engaged community actively promotes the community. People are emotionally invested in whatever it is that you’re doing. They might not even like a particular type of content, but there is just something about your website that makes them emotionally invested. They keep coming back again and again. As a result, they promote you to their circle of influence. They also help promote your brand. And most importantly, they lend some of their personal credibility. If you put these factors together, you have the makings of a really powerful traffic network that is self-sustaining. This is the wet dream of other website owners who have reached this level.
Unfortunately, you can’t reach this level by accident, you have to value content. High volume traffic is just the beginning. Search engine traffic, converting this traffic into actually great traffic should be the objective of your website. To do this, you have to look beyond sales. You have to look beyond immediate financial results and focus instead on building community. A sustainable community should be your highest success metric at this stage of the game.
How to Get there
We’ve already laid out what your primary objective should be. You should shoot to create a thriving community around your blog or website. Of course, this is easier said than done. How do you get from point A to point B? Here are three steps that you need to follow to get there.
First and foremost, you have to have great content. Content draws your traffic. If you have a lousy content, people wouldn’t know what to do with your website. People wouldn’t have anything to draw to. At the very least, the content must appeal to the needs of the audience that you are targeting. There are many tools online that you could use to figure this out. There are many tools that use social media signals to figure out the range of needs a particular keyword’s evoke. Regardless, you have to build solid content. The best way to do this is to research your audience thoroughly. Pay attention to what they are consuming online. Pay attention to how they interact with certain types of content. Pay attention to how they label that content.
Once you are able to offer content that your audience needs in a manner that your audience is accustomed to, they would start paying attention to you. Once you start speaking the same language, then you get closer to producing great content. The biggest downside to generating great content is there is no cookie-cutter solution. There is no off the shelf package that you only need to buy and you have a great content. Great content, regardless of how other online promoters and marketers say is strictly trial and error solution.
In other words, what may be great content for one website might not necessarily be great content for another website. Each website really has its own unique situation and it has its own unique circumstances. This is why you have to constantly experiment with a content that you provide on your website. The good news is that Google analytics and other statistic’s packages lets you know easily which pages are your most popular. By paying attention to your most popular pages and replicating their principles to the rest of your website or in new content, you can make quickly educated guesses as to which content to focus your attention on.
Great Content to Maintain
Content to draw is very different from content to maintain. Getting somebody’s attention is not the same as keeping that person’s attention. You have to know this. You have to pay attention to how your traffic moves through the pages of your website so you can engineer the right type of content that not just draws people, but also maintains their attention.
Great Content to Engage
Drawing attention and maintaining attention are great in everything. However, if you want to turn your traffic into cold hard dollars, you have to engage your visitors. This brings to the table another set of skill sets. This brings to the table another set of circumstances that you need to keep your mind on. You have to pay attention to certain metrics from your website like a bounce rate, average time on site, average time on pages and page viewing patterns. The good news is, by paying attention to these statistics, you don’t have to take shots in the dark. Sure, building engaging content is an art, not a science. However, with enough statistics, you can make educated guesses instead of going completely on a hunch.
Community Engagement is the Gateway
Once you generate a body of content that effectively and sustainably engages your visitors, you can then start building a viable community around your content. This is crucial. Many websites don’t even get to this point. Many websites just focus on turning traffic into cash. The problem with this mentality is that you are basically dependent on search engines if you do this. You’re dependent on the high level of targeting of the traffic so you can basically churn and burn that traffic by having that traffic click to an ad or having that traffic fill out an email form.
The problem is that party is not going to last forever. I am talking about something more sustainable. I’m talking about engaging that traffic in such a way that it becomes a community. Once we establish a community, you basically build a self-sustaining traffic machine that is not dependent on Google or YouTube or Yahoo or any other high traffic website. This is crucial. You have to reach this stage. You have to start engaging and never stop.
You have to remember that audiences and websites mutually reinvent each other. In other words, your relationship with your community must not be a top-down inside-out affair. If you run things this way, people will eventually get tired of you. If you need proof, take a look at Digg.com. Digg used to be one of the most powerful websites on the planet when it comes to social media.
Thanks to a wide variety of factors, Digg is pretty much dead now. What was Digg’s cardinal sin? It forgot that audiences and websites mutually reinvent each other. All these principles really mean is that you have to pay attention to the usage patterns of your community. You basically have to give them some form of power to help you shape your online property. In other words, they become symbolic co-owners of your website. If you let them feel this, you will not only foster loyalty, but also get the kind of data that you need to always stay one step ahead of the evolution of your niche.
Let’s face it, niche has evolved very quickly. New keywords always come out. New trends pop up. It’s very hard to make heads or tails of all these developments. You might have to spend lots of dollars trying to chase down a new trend and end up very little to show for it. Why? You chase the wrong trend. If you are engaged in your community where you mutually reinvent each other, your community is actually doing the heavy lifting for your website.
Life beyond search engines is not just possible, but in many cases, desirable. It’s always a bad idea to be dependent on any one type of traffic or any one source of traffic. By pursuing traffic philosophy that seeks to convert traffic into community, you not only make your website future proof, but you also make your website a self-sustaining traffic machine.