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.
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.
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.