What Is Web Traffic?
Web traffic is the amount of data sent and received by visitors to a website. It makes up a large portion of Internet traffic, and it is determined by the number of visitors and the number of pages they visit. Websites monitor incoming and outgoing traffic to see which parts or pages of their websites are popular and to identify any trends—such as one particular page being viewed mostly by people in a certain country. There are many ways to monitor traffic. You can use the data that you gather to structure the website, uncover security problems and detect a potential lack of bandwidth.
Some companies participate in advertising programs in which, in return for increased traffic (i.e. visitors), they pay for screen space on a website. Website operators often aim to increase their traffic through search engine optimization.
Web Traffic Analysis
Web analytics tools measure the behavior of visitors and can thus indicate the popularity of a website or individual pages. In a commercial context, web analytics measure elements of a website that serve the business’ Internet-marketing objectives (for example, which landing pages entice people to make the most purchases). Notable vendors of web analytics software and services are Web trends, Coremetrics, Omniture and Google Analytics.
Tailoring your promotional strategies to improve targeted traffic according to these patterns and factors can give you an advantage in capturing more of your prospective customer base. Being able to reach your targeted audience will earn you a handsome profit for your online business.
Tracking the traffic to your website requires constant analysis. This can be easily accomplished with specially designed software tools. Such tools also present you with detailed information on the nature and quantity of the traffic you’re receiving.
Web traffic can be analyzed by viewing the statistics found in the web server log, which is an automatically generated list of all the pages served to visitors. A “hit” is generated when any file is served. A page itself is considered a file, but images are also files, thus a page with five images could generate six hits (i.e. five images plus the page). A “page view” is generated when a visitor requests one of the website’s pages. A visitor will always generate at least one page view (usually the main page) but could generate many more.
I stress, as the experts do, that if you want to make money from your website, then you must know the following:
- How many customers browse your website?
- Which pages are viewed and which are ignored?
- How long do visitors spend on your website?
- Which search engines send you traffic?
- What keywords do visitors use to find your website and to search it?
- Are you using internal IP mapping technology?
- Have visitors shifted their behavior in any way?
- Exactly who visits your website?
- Where do unwelcome visitors come from?
- Are your pay-per-click keywords paying off?
- Where do visitors come from (country, state, etc.)?
- Does your website have any broken links or page errors (if so, how are they reported)?
Know the who, when, where, why and the cost of it all.
Why Increasing Web Traffic Matters
In the early days of the Internet, word of mouth was the primary method of getting traffic to your website. Along came search engines and a bunch of techniques— now ever-changing—to get high page rankings; now, anyone who searches for your website will see your information on the first page or so. A number of other methods of gaining the attention of the public are evolving, and many of them rely on paid advertising. One free method, search engine optimization (SEO), is still alive and well, as are the search engines.
Web traffic is important for all online businesses, not just those involved in affiliate marketing. There are numerous ways to generate traffic, but that isn’t the focus of this article. Be aware, though, that there isn’t just one way, or even a “best way”; you might need to implement several methods to have a truly effective Internet presence.
The importance of increasing web traffic to build your business cannot be over-emphasized. Without traffic, your website will just take up space and deplete your bank account. You can’t take it as a given that your website will automatically generate revenue for you.
Sales pages, a shopping cart and a payment processor are important if you want to do direct selling online. Many websites are created just to sell a product or products. For this sort of website, traffic can be directly measured through sales; the amount of sales is usually proportional to the number of visitors. Without a steady flow of traffic, you likely won’t be able to afford to develop new products, and your sales will suffer.
Support websites, on the other hand, do not generate much direct income, but they do contribute to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Those lead to repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals, which increase your bottom line. With a decent frequently asked questions (FAQ) section or knowledge base, many customers can solve their own problems without resorting to expensive (i.e. for you) one-on-one telephone support. If you can’t get enough traffic to the support website, your phone support costs could go through the roof or, worse, customer satisfaction might wane—and with it, your reputation and sales.
If you’re hosting a hobby or vanity website, traffic will result in greater awareness and trust in your capabilities. Regardless of the type of website you have, it won’t grow without a steadily increasing amount of traffic.
How Traffic Comes to Your Website
Web traffic that comes from unpaid listings on search engines or directories is commonly known as “organic.” Organic traffic can be generated or increased by getting the website listed in directories, search engines, guides (such as the Yellow Pages and restaurant guides), software (such as DigitalTrafficPuller) and award websites.
In most cases, the best way to increase traffic is to register with the major search engines. Registering alone does not guarantee traffic, though; search engines work by “crawling” registered websites. Crawling programs, or crawlers (also known as spiders or robots), start at the registered home page and usually follow all hyperlinks in order to reach pages inside the website (internal links). Crawlers gather information about those pages and store and index it in the search engines’ databases. In every case, a crawler indexes the page’s URL and title and, in most cases, the page’s header (including meta tags) and a certain amount of text of the page. Then, when a person searches for a particular word or phrase, the search engine looks into its database and delivers the results, usually sorted by relevance according to the search engine’s algorithms.
The top organic result usually gets most of the clicks from users. According to some studies, the top result gets 5 to 10% of clicks. Each subsequent result gets 30 to 60% of the clicks that the previous one got. Clearly, appearing in the top results is important. Some companies specialize in search engine marketing, but it is becoming common for “boiler-room” companies (i.e. companies that have no real knowledge of how to get results) to go straight to webmasters. Search engine marketers are usually paid monthly or annually (unlike in a pay-per-click system), and most marketers cannot promise definite results within a finite period of time. Because of the huge amount of information available on the web, crawlers might take months to index all of the pages they find. Google, for example, had indexed over eight billion pages by the end of 2004. Even with hundreds or thousands of servers working to crawl pages, a complete reindexing takes time, which is why recently updated pages on certain websites are sometimes not immediately found in search results.
Top 11 Secrets of Increasing Web Traffic
You can increase traffic by registering the website with search engines and by using various advertising techniques (bulk email, pop-ups, in-page advertisements, even offline and print advertising).
If a web page is not listed in the first few pages of search results, then the chances that someone will find it reduce greatly; very few people go past the first page of results, and the number of people who go to subsequent pages is even lower. Hence, proper placement in search engine results is as important as the website itself.
Increasing page views is often the priority for web developers, but there’s more to getting page views than registering your website with search engines and writing meta tags. You can do other things to improve your chances of being found, and here are 10 of them.
Create and maintain actual content on your website. If you’re selling something, it helps to have articles and information about it. If you’re providing information, make sure it’s more than just lists of links for visitors to browse. High-quality content that is updated regularly will make your customers come back often.
Follow leaders. If there are websites in your area of interest that get a lot of hits, visit them; what do they do that you don’t? If at all possible, mimic what they do to add the same value to your website.
2. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Campaigns
Almost all major search engines offer some sort of pay-per-click marketing. This is a great way to bring targeted traffic to your website, and with some bids as low as $0.01 per click, it can be very economical. Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing (formerly Overture) are the main players in the PPC market, but some good deals are to be found on a few smaller search engines such as ExactSeek.com.
3. Search Engine Optimization
Good old-fashioned search engine optimization: perhaps the most cost effective way to increase the volume of traffic on your website—because it doesn’t cost a thing. A website that holds the top ranking for even a mildly popular search term can get thousands of visitors per month. Visit any SEO forum or article database and you’ll find hundreds of effective search engine optimization tips and tweaks to apply to your website for free.
4. Newsletters, Newsgroups and Mailing Lists
Newsletters keep you fresh for customers. Even if the newsletter doesn’t entice subscribers to visit the website, it reminds them that it exists. Also, because it’s email, your readers can forward it to their friends, which could increase your customer base.
Newsgroups like Yahoo Groups, Google Groups and even “About” forums cover many topics—there is sure to be one related to your website. Get involved with the forum (don’t just post ads), and your website will get more traffic. Be sure to include your URL in your signature.
Mailing lists are as valuable as newsgroups. Find relevant lists and get involved in them. One of the good sources to find the list are List Universe.
5. Traffic Exchanges and Link Exchanges
Traffic exchanges offer website owners an instant, free way to get traffic. They come in many forms and with many themes, but the underlying principle remains the same: “I view your website, and you view my website.” The ratio of the websites you view to the views of your websites is unpredictable and depends on the individual exchange, but I recommend looking for 2:1 or better. Traffic exchanges also come with a multi-tier referral program that gives you a percentage of traffic earned by affiliates that you bring into the program. Traffic Swarm offer great ways to increase traffic, or you could simply search for the term “traffic exchange” to find an exchange that suits you.
Link Exchanges are a fantastic way to increase traffic, and the benefits are twofold: not only will you receive traffic from the linking website, but you’ll get better search engine placement from every link that points to your website. Reciprocal linking has always been a major component of effective SEO, and more and more weight is placed daily on the quality and quantity of links pointing to your website.
Be sure your anchor text includes the keyword or words that you’re targeting. At the same time, periodically rephrase your anchor text so that all the links that point to your website don’t say the same thing. This will make your links seem more “natural.” Linkalizer.com and Linkmarket.net are some good free services to help with link-exchange campaigns, or you can visit SEO forums and article or e-zine databases for tips.
6. Running Online Contests
Contests spark people’s interest, and a good prize will generate excitement and curiosity. Be sure to post a page of official rules—and you’ll need to find out whether there are any rules in your state or country regarding contests; in Canada, for example, contest finalists must answer a skill-testing question before they can be declared winners.
7. Paid-to-Read (PTR) Campaigns
In paid-to-read campaigns, people are paid to view your website for a certain amount of time. PTR campaigns are extremely low cost and can get guaranteed visitors to your website quickly. It’s a great way to build an opt-in list or e-zine subscriber base inexpensively—but it’s not the most effective way to advertise because most PTR campaigns are not targeted.
Usually for only a few dollars, you can send an ad out to all of the members of a program. Find PTR programs that are well established and that have many members in their database. Most programs display the number of subscribers and other stats prominently on the main page of their website.
8. Guest Speakers
Invite someone fairly prestigious in your field to chat with your readers. If you run a chat room, you can hold the event there; otherwise, it can happen in a public chat room. If the guest doesn’t want to chat, perhaps they’d be willing to write a short note or post for your website. It never hurts to invite.
Banner ads and text links are important, but offline advertising works, too. Radio ads, ads in trade journals and so on all help to generate interest in your website.
Gift giveaways also promote your services. Purchase trinkets like pens and stress balls with your website name and URL to give away to your customers. Perhaps you could give them something if they fill out a marketing survey, or you could create a screensaver related to your area of interest and give it away to first-time visitors.
10. Analyzing Page Views
Use tracking software to stay informed about what is working and what isn’t. It doesn’t do any good to purchase a new ad and neglect to find out whether it actually worked.
11. Purchasing Web Traffic
We’re already at 10, but this one hardly counts; it’s a freebie. There is not a more “hands-free” way to get traffic to your website than to buy it. Accounting for quality and cost, targeted web traffic can vary greatly from provider to provider. Look for web traffic campaigns that provide real-time stats and that target your specific audience. This way, you can manage and track your advertising dollars.
Social Networking Can Increase Traffic
In the ongoing quest to increase website traffic, many website owners and businesses are learning the value of social networking; owners can attract new users to their websites through popular, user-driven websites like Facebook, MySpace and Flickr. Each day, millions of users gravitate to social networks, where they can connect with others, share entertaining content and build new relationships.
Social networking presents limitless opportunities to those who own and operate individual or business websites. Before anyone takes the plunge into this evolving medium, they need to understand how social marketing could lead to more page views.
Online Marketing Opportunities
Social networking is truly where the action is: millions of users log in daily. In 2008, Silicon Alley Insider reported that MySpace averaged 17.7 million daily users, followed by Facebook, which averaged 8.6 million daily users. With incredible and consistent numbers like this, website owners simply cannot afford not to get in on the action. Remember: you need to be where the users are.
Targeting Large Audiences
Social networking websites allow instant access to a large audience and user base. It takes mere minutes to create a profile on any highly trafficked social website and to begin posting information about yourself, your website or your business. The fun begins when you start adding friends who share your interests or who might be interested in your business. You can even go so far as to zero in on a niche, which can increase targeted traffic. In time, you’ll attract users to your website and gain valuable backlinks, both of which can lead to more page views.
Most Professionals Use Social Networks
Many online business owners have heard of social networking but are hesitant to use it as an advertising tool because they’re under the impression that these networks cater to youth—and if their business isn’t aimed at a young market, then they shouldn’t waste their time. They fail to see the value in it.
This assumption is completely false; many social networking websites target career professionals, not teenagers. A recent survey conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity reports that approximately 65% of business professionals use personal and professional social networking websites. The same survey reveals that most professionals gravitate to LinkedIn, followed closely by MySpace and Yahoo360.
Save Money With Social Networking
When you have millions of users at your disposal, why would you even want to buy website traffic with a PPC campaign? Instead, add social networking strategies to your online marketing plan and save yourself some money. Numerous companies, including MasterCard, are monetizing with social networking applications, blogs and photo galleries. In fact, according to Yahoo! Senior Product Manager Laura des Dorides, many companies that purchase micro-websites (i.e. websites geared to promoting one brand of a company) on the Yahoo! Network now demand that social marketing tools—like Facebook applications and Flickr photo galleries—be included. They understand that these tools generate traffic.
Too much traffic can dramatically slow down or even stop all access to a website. An overload happens when a server gets more file requests than it can handle. This could happen because of a deliberate attack on the website or just because of over-popularity. Large-scale websites with multiple servers can usually cope with the load; smaller services are more likely to be affected.
Denial-of-service attacks (or DoS attacks) sometimes shut down websites by flooding them with more requests than they can handle. Viruses have also been used to co-ordinate large-scale distributed denial-of-service attacks.
A sudden burst of publicity can accidentally cause a traffic overload. A news item in the media, a quickly propagating email or a link from a popular website could be the cause of the overwhelming boost. Unexpected spikes in traffic that occur when a large website links to a smaller one are known as the “Slashdot effect” (or the “Digg” or “Reddit” effect), or as “slashdotting.”
The websites that are forced to close because of a surge in popularity are often run by individuals who lease the bandwidth from an ISP or hosting website. Some websites backed by large companies that run their own servers have also had to deal with sudden popularity. The Vision of Britain Through Time website, which contains information taken from the 1901 UK census, was advertised on numerous television programs, rousing so much interest that the website had to be taken offline until new arrangements could be made to cope with the traffic. The website was hosted by a project at the University of Edinburgh, and the creators did not foresee the bandwidth and server load that would be required. Unfortunately, by the time the website was able to cope with the traffic, the buzz had worn off and the website was left with excess capacity.
With a little effort and not much money, you can bring quality traffic to your website right away. Not every technique is appropriate for every website, so choose a few that suit you and watch the traffic surge.
As long as you own a website, whether for profit or charity, one truth stands: your website needs traffic. Without it, nobody will find you.