Traffic Steroids vs. Natural Traffic

Traffic Steroids vs. Natural Traffic

Over the past few months, my blog has received several traffic surges from social media sites, including two Digg front-pagers and thousands of hits from Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc.

It was definitely fun seeing my Technorati and Alexa rank skyrocket within a few days, but unfortunately, visitors from social media sites are not targeted visitors and hence, rarely stick around. Just like steroids, traffic from social media sites may provide for instant gains, but eventually the effects wear off and all you’re left with is are sore muscles.

That being said, just as you go to the gym and slowly train hard for months, your results will stick around for much longer. The same can said for traffic building – there are instant surges from sites like Digg, but the benefits never stick around. Since my Digg outbreak last month, I have shied away from increasing my traffic through social media sites. Instead, I have been working on growing my traffic naturally and slowly.

The Side Effects of Traffic Steroids

The first thing to know about low quality traffic is that it’s not targeted traffic, so visitors will not stick around very long. Often, they are only on your site to read one article, and hence, your pageviews/visitor ratio is very low, usually below 1.1.

traffic steroids

As you can see in the chart above, despite receiving 20k visitors within a day, hardly any of those visitors read more than 1 page. Arrghhh, Diggers!

Just like when someone takes steroids and their body goes under tremendous amounts of stress, perhaps the biggest drawback of social media traffic is the stress it places on your server. Most shared hosting plans cannot withstand a surge of 30k visitors in a few hours and as a countermeasure, shut off or suspend your account. How frustrating is that – just as you are receiving more vistors than you have gotten that entire month, your web site is down.

Some people try to get Dugg just for the extra advertising revenue it will bring them. In my case, when my article about the hybrid Toyota sportscar hit the front page of Digg and sent 30 thousand visitors my way, I made an extra $26 off Adsense that day. However, the CTR was extremely low (below 0.1%). Despite the possibility that vistors may leave your site by clicking an ad, they are not likely to ever return.

There is, however, one good aspect about having your site syndicated to thousands of people – and that is free inbound links. Andrew from A2 Blog, says “I didn’t want to get to the Digg front page for money, I wanted to get some free inbound links. My technorati dropped by 20,000 ranks in a few hours.” As Alex said, many people will link to your site for free and accordingly, your Technorati and Alexa rank will drop significantly.

Why You Need to Build Traffic Naturally

Traffic is much more likely to stick around if traffic is built naturally and over time. As I mentioned earlier, a key difference between natural traffic and social traffic are that visitors will read more than one page. My average pageviews/visitor is around 2.1 from loyal readers, instead of less than 1.1 from social surfers. Additionally, targeted visitors are much more likely to become loyal readers of your site by subscribing to your RSS feed or visiting your site on a daily basis.

Loyal Visitors

You know you are receiving high quality, loyal visitors when nearly 50% of all visitors to your site are returning, as you can see in the chart above.

From a CPC advertising revenue perspective, although you will not see the instant ad revenue from a Digg, your CTR will be much higher from targeted visitors, as they will be exposed to your ads more often and possibly find something relevant.

Nonetheless, I recently made a point of saying goodbye to CPC advertising on my blog as I believe it detracts from the readers’ experience. Unless you receive thousands of unique visitors per day, CPC ad networks provides for little, to no financial return.


Hopefully you have realized the benefits of natural traffic over social media traffic and understand that at best, social media traffic is only good for a few backlinks, but most likely will leave you with a slow server and a bunch of disinterested readers who will never return to your site.

In my next article, I am going to talk about some methods of attracting highly targeted visitors to your site that will stick around and hopefully become loyal readers.

26 thoughts on “Traffic Steroids vs. Natural Traffic”

  1. Great article Nate. Sure and steady growth is the real thing. It’s the sign of a solid company, online and off.

    I liked “Since my Digg outbreak last month…” lol – Sounds itchy!

    1. LOL I can’t believe I wrote Alex. The funny thing is that I had you listed in iChat as Alex. Oops… Sorry man. I made the change though. 🙂 Keep on bloggin!

  2. Hey Nate, excellent article! it is true that natural traffic, as opposed to digg traffic means potentially returning visitors, and maybe regular readers and loyal “customers”. Question though, when you had this 30K traffic peak and made 26 bucks, how much did it cost in bandwidth/hosting? i’m a little curious. 😉

      1. It would only cost if you were out of your limit, then I’m sure it would hurt a little more. How much of your dedicated server do you actually use?

  3. I’m not even interested in submitting my articles to the likes of Digg and other social outlets.

    My returning viewer ratio is much higher than 50%, and a lot of my readers interact on my blog, which is good to me. I don’t mind if it takes a couple of months or even a year or two to grow my traffic– as long as it is quality traffic.

    That’s 2 cents from a novice


  4. I like the steroid comparison. It’s so true. The uniques I get from netscape never really stay. I have to keep making front page to keep getting the thousands of viewers. Maybe having an email grabber would help in retaining some visitors.

  5. Good stance.
    Albeit I’m still in my rookie blog season I find it strange that so much effort is spent upon backlink acquisition programs / schemes at the expense of attracting & holding new readers.

    So many people writing for ratings and stats counts – and comparatively few tredding the paths of good one-on-one connection.


  6. The current trains I’m running are just getting me 1 page view per visitor, so I totally agree with you that these social media sites or viral campaigns are great to increase everything else but the most important metric – page views per visitor! Anyways, i’m looking forward to the next article cuz I really would like more readers too!

  7. Nice job Nate. Yeah you’re right about Digg and other such sites.

    Actually, When I got dugg some time ago, my blog post got filled with bad remarks and comments like this:

    Digg Sucks! Digg Sucks!

    I’m happy now that i don’t digg anymore.

  8. digg traffic has done me some good but doesnt make me a dime… i suppose it would be better for humor sites that run video ads.

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