A few days ago Mark Schaefer published a post on his blog about the „vanity“ of traffic, and why marketers should rather look at other metrics. He told the story of the first time an influencer picked up one of his posts and tweeted about it. It was Guy Kawasaki who has a huge Social Media following and Mark Schaefer got a huge traffic spike.
The problem was that none of this traffic persisted. After a few days, everything was back to normal. Mark even doubts that he got any new subscribers from this traffic spike.
Traffic does not equal success
The problem with this phenomenon is that “traffic” alone does not say much. There are several situations where you can observe behavior like this:
We had one of our articles shared on Stumble Upon. We got tons of traffic from StumbleUpon to this article that day – none of the traffic persisted. As far as I can tell, we did not get any subscribers from this share as well.
But we also had some other shares, which not only brought us a short termed spike in traffic, but this traffic persisted: Jonathan’s article on the need to approach blogging like a business got shared on Flipboard, resulting in a few hundred visits from Flipboard to this article on two days. In this case, the rise in traffic was not over after these two days. The traffic to our blog stayed at a higher level. We also got new email subscribers from this one share. Obviously, from this share, some of the additional audience was very interested in our content and persisted.
Traffic can be everything or nothing
The thing with traffic is that it can be worth a lot, and it can give you nothing. You cannot even generalize which traffic is “good” traffic without also considering what your goals for this traffic really are. Traffic can be well targeted for one purpose while it might be badly targeted traffic for another situation.
For example traffic from Google Search usually brings more earnings with Google AdSense advertising but might not be very good traffic concerning sales.
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Going for traffic, therefore, can be very short sighted. You need to get targeted traffic. In his post mentioned above, Mark kind of puts this slightly abstract concept of “targeted traffic” into other metrics like “time on site,” “returning visitors,” “social shares”, and “conversions.” Which one of these metrics describes “targeted” best for you, depends on what you want to achieve with your efforts.
Mark is totally right. Traffic alone is only good for bragging; you can run a high traffic blog and not make any money with it if your traffic is off target. Someone else might have only a fraction of the traffic you have, but get a lot more out of it, because he gets his targeting right.
“Borrowed” traffic will never be the best-targeted traffic
There is a lot of advice floating around how to get influencers to share your content. That might be an idea for getting initial attention. But you always need to take into account how well the influencers’ audience is targeted for your own purposes. The better the audience you “borrow“ matches what you are looking for as an audience, the better the results will be. If the influencer’s audience is totally off target for your own content, you might not even get traffic out of a share.
You can be lucky with a borrowed audience. But in the end, another person’s audience will never be so well targeted and so “usable” as an audience you build and target for you own purposes and that you can nurture over time.
This is the reason it is so important to build your own targeted audience and to follow instead of constantly relying on other people’s (borrowed) audience which is very likely to be not very well targeted at your own purpose.
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