You manage the marketing of an information site, an e-commerce site or another type of online service. So you obviously know that traffic is the fuel that runs the machine. But not all traffic sources have the same quality. Some are completely adulterated and are to be avoided, whatever the case. Here is an overview of traffic sources, from the healthiest to the most toxic.
1 ° The best source of traffic is not one.
Often when we talk about a source of traffic, we think first and foremost of a referral site, from which visitors come. If you use Google Analytics, you can easily track all of these sources. If the traffic is neither generated by referring sites (including social networks), nor advertising campaigns nor organic searches, it will be considered as “direct” by your analysis tool. Note: the figure may be slightly misleading because Google also includes the traffic resulting from the suggestion of your domain to visitors who enter the name of your service in the address bar of their browser, sometimes without knowing exactly the destination’s URL.
But this figure is indicative of your service’s reputation and it reflects the impact of the best source of traffic among all: word of mouth. You may someday be a victim of a Google penalty that will reduce your organic traffic but nothing can take away the traffic that results from the intrinsic quality of your service.
2 ° Traffic resulting from search is a source to develop cautiously.
Who doesn’t dream of a website where more than 75% of the traffic would come from organic searches for which one doesn’t have to spend on advertising investment? It’s possible, many sites enjoy such a proportion of free traffic. That said, everything depends on the nature of the service and the content (factual or permanent), the authority of the domain (which you can check via MOZ) which depends particularly on the quality of the backlinks and, for content sites, the volume indexed (quality) pages.
The risk is to embark on a very aggressive SEO (search engine optimization) campaign in “black hat” mode, which uses dubious techniques (for example, the famous Private Blog Networks that resell backlinks per kilo without any added value). Search engines are now much more refined than they were a few years ago and they can quickly penalize buffs of an overload keywords and backlinks of poor quality.
The number of sites that went through outright failure for having overused SEO are uncountable. There is no magic solution. If your site is fast, mobile optimized, well structured, its content really matches the target audience’s research and other legitimate sites naturally refer users to it, you will progress in the search results and may one day be able to seek for a place at the top of Google’s first page. Be meticulous and patient, this is the best advice we can give you.
3. Social traffic is a drug that can be costly.
We all know Facebook’s audience is massive. It would be absurd not to go looking for traffic on it. That being so, Zuck’s service is no longer free. If you want a publication to generate traffic to your site, you will need to use your card and, even if just moderately, boost your post. The Menlo Park algorithm is constantly evolving. For obvious reasons, Facebook particularly prefers that you tell your stories on its wall (native videos, instant articles, …) rather than take the user to your website.
What is acquired today may perhaps not be so tomorrow. So be careful to avoid excessive dependency.
However, feel free to establish an organic presence on the main social networks, provided you have the resources to feed them with content.
Instagram, Pinterest or Youtube can be valuable sources of recurring traffic if the content you post there naturally generates a substantial audience. Coming back to Facebook, be active in groups whose theme matches your target without the frequency of your publications being perceived as spam. The same goes for Linkedin groups, a network where you can develop a premium audience, just like on Medium. Reddit can also bring you good traffic, but you will need to earn some Karma before publishing your messages, parsimoniously, to avoid trolls.
4 ° Paid (legitimate) traffic, provided that the ROI is positive.
There is nothing wrong with doing good to yourself. If you buy legitimate traffic through premium publishers and this traffic generates a positive return on investment over time, there is no reason to deprive yourself of it. Especially as the visitors thus acquired will be able to come back from their own free will and bring more people. Just keep accounts to make sure your investments are relevant.
A first way to gauge the quality of traffic is to analyze the bounce rate AND the time spent on your site from a given referent. The dual condition is important. As a matter of fact, the bounce rate is the percentage of people from the given source who have visited only one page on your site. You probably prefer that it should be under the 50% mark, which means that you will have caught the customer in the meandering of your site. Of course, but there is nothing wrong with the fact that the visitor finds his happiness exclusively on the landing page (although he can come back later). The question is whether he will stay long enough on this page to actually consume the information. A bounce rate of 80% with an average duration of 3 minutes is good news. A rebound rate of 80% with 5 seconds of visit is a sign of poor traffic.
The traffic that you will buy in search mode on Google will be more qualified than the one you will get from the multitude of recommendation services that are on the web today. Limit yourself to those that are well established and select locations where suggestions will be posted. Promoting your services on a cheap viral content site will only bring you bad traffic.
This leads us slowly to the dark side of the force …
5. Fraudulent traffic, to be avoided like the plague.
BuzzFeed recently wrote a very well-researched article on magical traffic that often turns out to be fraudulent. If you are sold tens of thousands of so-called real visits at a very low price, it inevitably means that the source is adulterated. Although it may be tempting so as to improve your figures at the end of the quarter, avoid this traffic like the plague. When you get caught, you will lose the trust of your advertisers and may even face the wrath of Google.
Just to give you a little idea of the latest fashionable technique, here’s how crooks do it.
They create a bunch of websites with a legitimate theme (sports, games, fashion, …). They buy traffic per kilo on pornographic sites. When a user visits one of these X sites, a window opens under the page he visits, this is called a “pop under”. The scammer does not necessarily expect the user to remove his eyes from the naked object of his vice. The pop under is considered a legitimate outgrowth of the porn site visit. This is a human visit, not an automatic bot, since the user has actually visited the porn site that causes it to open.
The pop under first opens a page from the scammer’s bunch of buffer sites, to cover up its tracks. Then a script opens the customer’s site (the one who has the bad idea of buying bulk traffic). The referral will therefore be a legitimate site, from the same sector as the final target. The script will stay on the landing page long enough for the visit to look normal. Then it will load one of the client’s other pages, to reduce the bounce rate. Smart ploy …
All this is from a hidden window on an X-rated site. The only hiccup is, no human will have actually visited the destination, while the site in question may have sold premium space to an advertiser. Big scam.
6 ° Ghost traffic. You’re not responsible.
On Google Analytics, you will sometimes notice questionable sources, which may also hide behind legitimate names (if a large media “sends” traffic to you and no article has been published by this source, you should you ask yourself questions). This is ghost traffic, generated by spammers, who hope to generate traffic on their junk sites (that they will manage to monetize with advertising) from the curiosity of some webmasters.
Strictly speaking, this is not traffic because no visit physically ends up on your site. Spammers directly attack the Google Analytics servers, which creates the logs of fake traffic. It is possible to exclude this ghost traffic from your statistics by creating a filter as explained in this article.
The value is in the base, your # 1 source of legitimate traffic.
Let’s end this article with a tip and a positive note. Whatever the legitimate source of your traffic is, it is imperative that you should be able capitalize on these visits and start the recurrence pump. The best way to do this is to put in place as soon as possible tools allowing you to collect the email addresses (and other information) of your visitors, to periodically offer them a newsletter.
Our most active publisher clients manage to generate more than 50% of their website traffic through their newsletter, which is their # 1 source of traffic, completely independent of GAFA. The icing on the cake is we can help you monetize these newsletters, by inserting a targeted advertisement. This communication channel will therefore be both a source of traffic (which will generate revenue) and a source of additional revenue.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you monetize your newsletter.