web trafficIf you want your online marketing campaigns to make sales, you need traffic…

One of my very first marketing mentors was Ken McCarthy.  He was my second freelance client, and through our relationship I got a ton of direct and indirect training.

Newer marketers probably recognize Ken’s name from The Titans of Direct Response, where he deservedly took the stage as a Titan of our industry.

More seasoned marketers will recognize Ken from The System Seminar, his annual seminar on internet marketing that was the Mecca of online, results-accountable selling.

And only the biggest marketing geeks (like me) or total vets of the industry will know that Ken put on the world’s first known internet marketing seminar, in Silicon Valley, in 1993, right as Netscape was being launched and the visual internet was being born.

The foundation of Ken’s teaching, on which all internet marketing success is built, is a simple formula…

Traffic + Conversion = Profits

(Wonder where Ryan Deiss got the name for the Traffic & Conversion Summit?  Ryan, like just about every “guru” today, came up following Ken’s teachings.)

Most of the time I focus on conversion.  As a copywriter, that’s my specialty.  Writing promotions and building campaigns for maximum conversion.

And yet, the other half of the equation is equally important.

I’m fortunate to have clients who are excellent at driving traffic to my creations.  If it weren’t for the traffic, we wouldn’t be making the sales.

The best of the best clients have entire teams dedicated to traffic, who work as hard and are just as valuable as the copywriting and creative teams.  Because once you have a winner, your profit potential is limited only by your ability to put that campaign in front of qualified traffic at an acceptable cost.

And yet, there are a ton of sources of traffic today, that each can play an important role in your online marketing success.

What follows are the eight broad categories of web traffic I’ve identified, and a brief note about each.  Including what I see as the more important ingredients to using it successfully to drive sales.

  1. Direct traffic

This is usually your most profitable source of traffic.  It is people who type your website address into their browser, with the intent of visiting your website.

The most important way to build this traffic source is through traditional “brand-building” activities, including PR.  This traffic is entirely reliant on people knowing of you before they visit your site.  The best way to make this happen is to show up in places that are not your website, with a compelling reason for people to visit your site.

The best way to convert this traffic when it gets to your site is to meet visitors’ expectations and have an easy-to-use site.  It should be clear from the moment the first page of your site loads that they’re at the right place, and what they need to do to get what they came for.  The navigation should be natural, easy-to-use, and offer an uninhibited path through the purchase process.

  1. Referral traffic

Referral traffic is very similar to direct traffic, in that it is “warm.”  Referral traffic comes to your site as a result of a link on someone else’s site.  They’ve been given a reason to click, and have done so.

To build referral traffic, you have to do things to get mentioned on others’ sites.  Most often, this is through compelling content.  Do things worth talking about, and put them on your website in a place that’s easy to link to.  Also, content partnerships are a strong way to build referral traffic.  Write content for others, on the condition that they include a link to your site (preferably to the page you specify, with an offer attached).  You can reciprocate as well, if you’d like to feature their content on your site.

Converting referral traffic is similar to direct traffic, but with a twist.  Often referral traffic links to pages other than your homepage.  This means you are in a different position to guide the user experience.  Again, natural navigation that leads toward conversion is key.

  1. Search traffic

Search traffic is an interesting beast.  And those who master it have an almost unlimited traffic stream, at very little cost.  (And note, here I refer to “organic” search, versus paid search ads — those are covered later.)

Search traffic is fundamentally question and answer.  People search because they have a question they want to have answered.  Or perhaps a problem they want to have solved.  To increase your search traffic, you need to have content that addresses the question or problem.  You need to communicate that clearly to the searcher, as well as to the search engine.  While there used to be ample ways to game the system, the loopholes are largely closing now and should not be exploited.  Ethical search engine optimization involves providing good answers to the questions asked, through a good user experience, and getting links from other credible sites that tell the search engines your content is good.  (Yes, this is oversimplifying, but space is limited!)

To make search traffic work, you have to link from the question or the problem into your product or solution.  Often you must be subtle — a search is not always direct purchase intent.  Or you must have a more complex conversion mechanism — such as an email autoresponder campaign that provides further education while selling.

  1. Social traffic

Social traffic is traffic that comes from any of the social media platforms.  Again, this is not paid — it’s traffic generated as a result of interactions on the social networks.

The biggest thing you can do to generate social traffic is to do things worth talking about.  If you are a topic of conversation, that conversation will result in visits to your site.  This can include putting out remarkable content, being a part of the conversation (not just the topic of it), encouraging social reviews of products, and more.  The thing about social is that it can be very hard to make work — but when you make it work, it can be huge.  Anything “viral” became that way because it worked in social media.

Converting social traffic is notoriously difficult.  You don’t log onto Facebook thinking you’re going to click away and buy something.  You usually log on to be distracted, to escape from the mundane.  Perry Marshall once told me he’d never seen a successful Facebook marketing campaign that didn’t include an email autoresponder sequence.  Your goal is to be the distraction they seek, and through that to get them to opt in for your emails.  Then, the selling takes place in the emails — not on the social networks.

Coming tomorrow, part two!

This turned out to be more in-depth than I thought!

Tomorrow, we cover the final four types of web traffic, and how to convert that traffic into paying customers!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr