Free Beer at the Daycare! (“More Traffic” is Not a Goal)
by Joel K

 You don’t want more traffic.

You might think you do, but you don’t.

SEO firms will promise it to you. Marketing agencies will show you gorgeous looking case studies: “We increased traffic by 1,115%!”

You will read blog post after blog post after blog post promising that if you just do X, Y and Z from their top 10 list, your traffic will explode like a majestic firework made out of money – all your business problems will be solved. And after all that brainwashing, it might even say so in your own messy handwriting, printed in your book of marketing goals for 2014 – “Improve website traffic”.

Scratch it out.

You don’t want more traffic. In fact, sometimes you might want less.

Imagine you run a daycare.

Your daycare isn’t making the kind of revenues you want, so you decide to invest in a bubbly new strategy: Free beer. 

Free-Beer-Sign

You paint a sign for the front lawn, install a few kegs and start pouring. Next thing you know, you’re swimming in foot traffic. There are people everywhere, tripping over the toys, sleeping in the cribs, scaring all the children. They’ve made a complete mess of your bathroom, too.

Now you’re spending a lot of time trying to hustle the boozers out the door, keep pouring from the tap and stop Johnny from cutting Sandra’s hair during craft (beer) hour. It’s expensive to keep buying beer, washing floors and explaining to existing parents why their kids come home smelling like happy hour.

But hey, one or two lush parents signed up their kids for your daycare. Minor victory; major cost.

This is what happens when you put the focus on traffic for traffic’s sake.

You can wind up with a lot of nice looking numbers and spend countless hours of admin time trying to vet leads. Traffic on its own is worthless. It’s the things traffic is supposed to do for you that make it valuable: Leads, sales, brand advocates. These are what you actually want more of. The fallacy here is that more traffic will definitely lead to more of those things.

Wrong.

You get more of those things when you increase your targeted traffic.

How does this tie in to content?

When you’re evaluating the success of the content you’re creating, one of the first metrics you might look to is “traffic”. You might get obsessed with it to the point of thinking that the pieces that got the most traffic were your best pieces. Sometimes they are!

But if you have two pieces, one that got 5,000 views and produced no leads, and one that got 5 views and converted every visitor – which one was more valuable to your business?

Be honest: Have you been putting attention in the right place? Or are you letting yourself be “wowed” by the vanity metric of total traffic going “up and to the right”?

Create Content for the Right Market, Not the Entire Market

There’s a few ways this plays into your marketing.

First: Your marketing message. This is going to bake itself into everything you do, from web copy to newsletters to mail outs. Nervous businesses will try to paint with an extremely broad brush, so worried about trying to capture every possible customer they wind up targeting nobody in particular.

Benefits are non-specific. Language isn’t pointed. Leads can’t self-identify within seconds of reading. Nobody knows if what you do is for them – because you’ve tried to make it for all of them. Great copy is a product of defining your market – which means being exclusive. You want to speak loud and clear to the people with money to spend instead of trying to be everyone’s buddy.

Second: Your content marketing efforts. There’s a huge attraction for businesses towards the idea of a “viral” piece of content; something with mass appeal. For some situations, that’s the right approach.

But for businesses looking for the best return on their marketing budget, dropping dough into a major content undertaking aimed at a non-specific market is like throwing up the “Free beer” hail mary. It would be better to create content that will go bonkers bananas within your smaller target market (the guys with money to spend and a problem to solve); something 100% applicable to their need and stage in the buying cycle.

Last Call – This One’s on the House.

 

All this talk about beer has made this Canadian very thirsty. Let’s sum this up – and hey, maybe we can clink glasses sometime?

  1. You want better targeted traffic, not more traffic.
  2. Sometimes, earning better quality traffic (and more money) means reducing the amount of incoming traffic by being exclusive to your market.
  3. To capture that targeted traffic, you need to know who that market is. That means building personas – and then building a brand around them.
  4. There are other, better success metrics to focus on: Leads, sales, cost per lead, return purchases, sentiment analysis and so on. Don’t get distracted by traffic’s big shiny disco ball.

beer

Bottoms up.

 

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25 Comments
    • Joel K says:

      James my man! Looks like we’re on the same page. Which means – more people ought to be on our page. Appreciated that read. Tucked it away to share later in the week; the Narcissus analogy is one the industry needs.

  1. Hey Joel,

    I love this analogy, I try to use them as much as possible when explaining this type of thing to clients and had this exact conversation (again) just last week.

    There are very few metrics that on there own will tell you anything useful. Total visitors, total conversions, page views, none of these give you much, you need to dig a little (and it often is only a little) deeper to get some insight.

    Gaz

    • Joel K says:

      Thanks, Gaz! I’m fond of it as well – analogies tend to be the language most clients understand, and back in my SEO days, I’d use them all the time to try and clear things up.

  2. Totally agree. Don’t just measure vanity metrics like Neil says. Measure what’s important. Revenue is the key.

  3. Patrick says:

    A lot of SEO’s have the attitude of “link bait or die” and will sacrifice their bounce rate, time on site, and overall quality of their site just to get more pageviews, it is ridiculous.

    The problem is in the SEO community is that we are all up against really smart copywriters & creative folks who are at the top of the industry, then you have 17 year old punks from wherever trying to compete with blackhat blogs and using link bait for titles.

    • Joel K says:

      Patrick – that’s definitely the problem from an SEO viewpoint. I think you’ve made a compelling point – shouldn’t SEOs be enlisting the help of talented content creators instead of trying to shoulder the entire process?

  4. Nick says:

    Damn! Came for the free beer. Instead, left with a great lesson in content marketing.

  5. Sandy says:

    The post is really enticing about how not to focus only on traffic. If you don’t get conversion, then we don’t need more traffic. It’s exactly a fault of strategy that only depends on a particular channels or audience, or location and so on. Go further, and improve strategy to cover all aspects of traffic generation with conversion in mind.

  6. […] most of the niche you cultivate with targeted content; don’t solely focus on the traffic metrics. Joel Klettke has the full […]

  7. Jimmy Adam says:

    love this Post, Everytime I try to use it as much as possible when explaining this type of thing to my clients

    Thanks.:)

  8. Just a quick thought…Maybe putting a free beer sign in front of a daycare would speak to me. A father of three children under 5 and someone that likes beer. Now we’ve identified a very targeted segment of the population. Additionally maybe consideration was given to the overall business objective and the operational model was going to cater to parents who like craft beer, who generally will spend more on quality. So now your daycare pivots to give parents a high-end luxury babt sitting experience where parents can unwind with a premium priced beverage and is kid friendly. While your point is well made, agility is a strength for the majority of small businesses. Looking closely at data and traffic can provide inexpensive market research, recognizing when to pivot will maximize the opportunity.

    • Joel K says:

      Really good thought (you’re sort of obfuscating my illustrative example, but I get why). Yes, being able to pivot is important, and yes, accidental appeals and happy accidents in incoming data can help you do that. But I wouldn’t ever deliberately target a vague audience in hopes of fumbling through to find a model that might work. I think there’s other ways to discover new avenues, too.

      My point was more about being deliberate in who you target and what you target them with; but yours highlights the importance of staying on your toes. Both good lessons, I think.

  9. Love the analogy in this post. And so true, especially in the SEO world where strategy is all too often defined by volume and not personas. SEO Nick has a solid post on how this should play into keyword research – http://www.seonick.net/keyword-research/

  10. Great post, one that I’ll use when talking to clients about content. I seem to say the same things every day now “quality over quantity” but clients get their heads turned to stats like children to shiny things! Think we’re slowly winning the battle though.

    • Joel K says:

      It’s a comfortable stat; it takes a lot of handholding to help a client realize that sales are more important. The trouble? A lot of agencies are too scared to tie their efforts to sales, or don’t know how to measure them. Thanks for reading, Karl!

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  12. Andy Black says:

    Maaan. It’s so nic to hear someone talk sense.

    Anyone talking about “traffic” needs shot.

    I’m an AdWords coach/consultant. My biggest problem with clients is to get them to stop buying “traffic”…

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