Imagine your online marketing as a funnel.
The bottom of that funnel is your goal: customers. The step before that could be email subscribers. And the step before that could be user engagement.
Regardless, each step in your funnel leads people to becoming loyal customers.
And at the very top of the funnel is traffic. Everything you do online starts with traffic.
But not just any traffic.
You need traffic that is going to buy from you and become loyal customers for years to come.
And that’s usually where people go wrong.
Not All Traffic is Created Equal
One of the most common online marketing mistakes is that people focus more on the quantity of traffic, instead of the quality.
For businesses using the internet to get customers, it doesn’t matter if you have 5,000 visits in one day or if your blog gets 100,000 visits each month.
If that traffic isn’t turning into leads, then you don’t want that type of traffic.
You want traffic that converts. Which means you need to look deeper.
Your website traffic is actually made up of different marketing channels and mediums. So if you want better traffic that turns into customers, then you need to pick better marketing channels.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Great! Just give me those channels and I’ll be on my way.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
Because it all depends on your unique situation. One tactic might work well for one person, while it’s a complete waste of time, money, and effort for another.
So how do you find good channels?
Here are 5 principles that will guide you.
Principle #1: The most effective tactics lose value over time.
You can exploit new traffic generation tactics for a short period of time… before they start to lose value.
For example, a year or two ago you could use Twitter Search to find out who was talking about your area of interest, and Tweet to them directly. But then everyone started doing it, and it became spammy and less effective.
Years ago you could easily manipulate SEO and get free traffic from Google. But after a few tweaks to Google’s algorithm and the latest Penguin update, SEO has become much more difficult to master.
And you used to be able to build a business by loading up on cheap AdWords clicks. But now it’s too expensive. Unless you make high margins on each sale, it probably doesn’t make sense to use Google AdWords at all.
Marketing tactics have a brief window of opportunity. And once your competition moves in, they become too expensive to compete.
Not only that, but what works well when you launch a new website, won’t work as well when you’re bigger.
So you have to constantly be on the look out for new, fresh ideas.
Principle #2: Experimentation is key.
The biggest problem with online marketing is that you won’t know what will work until you try it.
And the same goes for getting traffic.
Until you try a new tactic and give it a chance, you won’t know how it will pay off. And as mentioned before, a tactic that you heard worked really well last year may not be as effective anymore.
The solution? Use arbitrage marketing to experiment.
You need to make a few little bets and evaluate their effectiveness.
Once you have a winner (or two), then you need to double down on these – while also cutting your losses on the losers.
Principle #3: Try to get traffic from diverse sources.
In the long run, every business needs to have a diverse set of traffic sources to consistently grow over time.
Sure, some channels will be responsible for the bulk of your traffic. But you can’t rely too heavily on any one, single tactic. Here’s why.
There are three main ways you get traffic online:
- Search: Organic search (SEO) traffic is high value because it’s consistent and based on intent. But it’s also hard to get. It takes time and expertise to build up the right factors, and the “rules of the game” are constantly changing.
- Referral: Referral traffic comes from other websites. Think of these as the communities around other blogs, social networks, etc. They provide great boosts of traffic, but taper off over time. It also takes weeks, months, and years to develop the relationships needed to generate substantial traffic from these sources.
- Paid: Paid traffic is both predictable and highly-targeted. But it costs money up front, and you need to know how to value each lead properly if you want a positive ROI.
In other words, each major source of traffic has their own unique risks.
So diversify your traffic channels like your personal investments. If Google’s Penguin Update makes you lose half of your SEO traffic, then you need to figure out how the other two are going to replace it.
Or if you rely heavily on Google AdWords, but the price jumps 50% per click and becomes too expensive, then you need SEO and Referral traffic to make up for it.
A mix of traffic also gives you standards of comparison. So you’ll be able to tell what channels and tactics are working better than others.
If you’re only using one tactic to get traffic, leads and customers, then you really have no idea how well you’re doing. You have no perspective.
But if you have a mix of sources, and are constantly experimenting with new ones, then you have data and insight to compare against. And you’ll be able to tell the winners from the losers.
Principle #4: Pick traffic channels based on the highest ROI
So you’ve experimented with a mix of new tactics. But how can you tell which ones are worth the time and effort?
Think about what it will cost you to scale each tactic. Most people (and businesses) are either short on (1) time, or (2) money.
It can’t be both.
So when you’re looking at traffic tactics, figure out what works best for you.
For example, a lot of small businesses are afraid of wasting money on advertising. But that’s because they don’t understand it. Advertising might be a better option if you’re short on time, because you don’t have to spend time managing it day-to-day. It will also give you immediate returns, where inbound marketing (Content + SEO + Social) takes months and years of effort before you start to see a return.
Now compare that cost to the value of the traffic it brings.
Not all traffic is created equal. Some of it will convert better than others.
And that leads us to the final point.
Principle #5: Prioritize the best performing channels over others.
You can get thousands of visits from Pinterest, but if 90% of it bounces, then it was a waste of time.
Which highlights the last important principle: you need to know how each traffic channel is converting, so you can compare that with it’s cost.
You’ll want to track the total (quantity of) conversions per source, and the performance (percentage) that each converts.
Your marketing time, effort, and investment should go towards these channels that are performing the best for you.
Sidenote: This becomes a problem when analyzing individual social networks. They don’t convert directly… rather they aid the conversion process indirectly and don’t show a high conversion rate (which is why it’s so hard to identify the ROI of social media). So be careful when you’re allocating resources – and not to underestimate the impact of your social media presence.
Bonus Principle: You have to go out and get traffic.
People believe that when they launch a new website, traffic will start pouring in immediately.
That’s not how it works.
In fact, it’s 100x more difficult to build traffic to a brand new site. So you can’t just sit around and wait for it. You have to go out and get it.
You need to take consistent actions that will drive traffic from other places to your website.
How to Pick the Right Tactics for Your Business
You should now have a better understanding of how to generate high-quality traffic.
Now, let’s take a look at specific examples and try to match them with different types of businesses. So no matter who you are, you should get several concrete examples and new ideas on how to get traffic that will turn into customers.