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A few years ago I noted that there is a difference between traffic and visitors in an article dealing with a broader topic. Then in early January of 2011 I have described it in more depth.
This time I’d like to elaborate on that crucial difference. While traffic and visitors may seem like the same thing or at least a synonym they are not the same.
You have to make a conscious decision and ask yourself: How do you attract visitors instead of traffic to your site?
What is traffic?
Ever since I banned Google on my blog it occurred to me that you get only traffic from Google in the most cases but rarely visitors.
Google traffic is like that information highway people used as an early metaphor to describe the Web.
People rush around in a frenzy, they pass along your website while they are on their way somewhere else.
Sometimes they will stop for a few seconds to check our your facade and the neon signs that advertise your business.
A few searchers will jump out of their car and check out your site take a look but then quickly disappear without doing anything.
Only few of them will remember you or come over again. Optimization for Google is like catching the eye of these stressed out hurrying masses.
Website owners hoping at least a bunch of those racing rats will have a minute left for you while on the hunt for what they want.
Usually what those people want is not what you want. Should you bow to the pressure from this traffic and give them what they demand?
Catering fast food for fast traffic?
Should offer something quick and dirty for people to drive in and stop for a minute? Most website owners do it. They attempt to go after the people who quickly pass their business.
SEO centric webmasters try to make the neon signs as large as possible, the prices ass attractive, the products as appealing to the larger public as possible.
In the end we have dozens of awfully similar business lining the street which is the Google search results page and people just choose the first one that appears in sight, the biggest one, the one on top.
Unfortunately there is no “top” by now for most lucrative search results.
On top there are Google ads and services that require “paid inclusion” too. So even if you rank #1 organically you mind wind up below the fold
This way actual Google users have to scroll down and look closely to find you. At the end of the day you get a small percentage of the people viewing a given search result.
Google takes the biggest part of the cake, after all they own the search results and can place their own properties above you.
Thus each day it becomes more difficult to get after the traffic so that more and more people scramble to get it.
The competition gets fiercer for the few breadcrumbs that Google leaves on the table for those who can’t or do not want to pay their way to the top.
Google makes money through ads not search results
Of course I do not want to explain the obvious changes Google has implemented over the recent years. Soon Google might have no organic result left though.
Google may go “paid inclusion” completely or at least hide organic result so much that almost nobody will notice them.
After all they have the search monopoly in most parts of the world so they can dictate the prices. More importantly they have the “organic” search traffic monopoly.
Some in the SEO industry would say “Google doesn’t owe you a living”. They try to justify the so called “free market” approach of Google.
By “free” they mean beyond democratic control and entitled to do whatever they please. After all Google is a black box top down organization with no oversight.
People tend to overlook that when one corporation controls the whole market, the market is by no means free. I don’t talk politics or economics here.
I agree with the Google apologists here: Google not only doesn’t owe you anything, they do not care at all for you.
You may go bankrupt after a Google algorithm update and nobody at Google will even notice if you kill yourself afterwards.
In case you’re not suicidal yet and you actually want to stay in business for the long care you have to start attracting visitors now not traffic.
Who is your visitor?
The visitor metaphor from analytics is much better to visualize the typical person visiting your site. First of all, it’s a person. We are talking real human beings here.
In case you represent a small business you can even name some of the people who visit you on your site.
As a big business and then you have to create so called personas based on real people to try to imagine what your typical visitor might look like.
Once you know how a visitor of yours might look, things like
preferences might matter. After all you want to know who you invite to your shop don’t you? It may be a bad idea to invite the 77 year old Catholic Republican to your Gay bar for example.
As an independent consultant I am not a big business.
I am small enough to reach out to real people, get to know them, find out what they care about and attract them by giving it to them whatever it is.
I can even afford to invite some of visitors personally to visit my site. I just did this Monday. I said “Hell world” and some people replied.
I “small talked” here and there like I usually do but this time I also asked a question and directly invited Gaz Copeland to read my latest article.
You can invite people personally but not all the time
I usually do not invite people personally. Even my day has only 24 hours. I have done that in the past occasionally but in some cases mostly because of wanted people to share my articles on social media.
It never was the obnoxious vote begging some people practice but it was already a bit much.
That’s why refrained from doing it later on. It’s better to attract these people organically anyway as you want to find out what they truly like without pushing.
I asked Gaz to come over, we tweeted back and forth and he later not only came over, visited me, but also left the first comment on my latest post. The comment was very helpful.
He asked for more information on one aspect of the post probably many other people care about so I might elaborate on that point in my next post.
Larger companies have to do
- market research
- social media monitoring
to find out what their audience wants to see. I can ask members of my audience directly. I have written a lot lately about how peer-to-peer SEO is a very important part of your strategy these days.
You have to understand though that your peers are your equals. They probably know as much or almost as much about your niche, industry or topic as you do. So it’s really difficult to attract them each time.
You are not only trying to convince your peers to visit you.
The invitation must go out to the people who know enough to care but don’t know too much. I do not write each of my posts for
For example Paul is much more advanced than I am on IFTTT recipes. I can’t teach AJ Kohn much about Google optimization.
Jason Acidre probably tried more link building techniques than I did. I’m delighted when they visit but I don’t expect them each time.
Of course you want the peer review by your equals to find out whether you are still on top of things or whether you err. Then hopefully they will comment and make you think again.
The much larger part of your audience needs an invitation as well though. You can’t ask them all personally to visit you.
The invitation must be implicit. You have to bring whatever they like to the table to attract them. you can’t stalk them and invite each time.
Attracting the silent majority of your potential audience
How do you attract the visitors you want to attract once you know mostly your few peers?
You have to listen a bit more closely to those voices that aren’t that loud.
I mean not everybody is hugely popular with a blog or a highly interconnected social media maven.
That’s why I listen more closely when someone from another trade comments here or shares my articles.
I try to guess the reasons why a person has decided to comment on or to share this one post. Then I dig deeper into my analytics tools to follow their path.
This one person who might be representative of many others is also really crucial. You can’t just write for your peers. They are not enough of an audience.
The people who actually want to implement your advice are as important. Even the negative comments from those people matter a lot.
For example one person who was not etch-savvy enough to use my IFTTT recipes complained to me that I “spam” him. What happened?
He just copy and pasted my recipe including my own blog feed address instead of replacing it with his own.
I learned again that my audience are not only other SEO geeks who can code but people who want to use things without having to think about them.
There are many examples like that. Another guy complained that there is no Twitter feed on my blog. There is one on my homepage but he only read one article so he overlooked it.
Also he got angry that I don’t have a mobile version of my site. This is again a highly valuable feedback.
I have been using my theme for 5 years, back when mobile wasn’t that important. Also I never added the typical social media buttons by to my site which are obligatory by now.
Some people are voicing their demands directly while many people will just leave put off but the lack of what they expect, be it technical issues or your actual offer. To find out what they want:
- You need to visit their social media profiles to find out more about them.
- You don’t have to follow them as you can’t read about every industry your readers are in but you should take a closer look of what they share beside your post.
- You will want to take a look at their website.
- Until now it was important to find out what search term they used to find you even though Google makes it more difficult each day. (I still do that on my other sites where I didn’t ban Google)
- You have to check out which posts are the most popular with your subscribers.
Then, once you know what’s popular with your major group of recurring visitors, not your few peers of friends and not the amorphous mass of traffic you have to act.
Become the go to place
You want to become the destination. You want them to come directly again and again. You want them to stop using Google each time to search for a generic keyword.
You want to become the resource of choice for that particular type of person, your visitor. Even getting 100 visitors like that each day is better than getting 1000 drive-bys.
You need to attract the pedestrians of the Web, those who stroll around the corner and visit you because you’re their neighbor by association.
This post is too long already I will have to write another one on what you exactly need to do to become a destination on the Web not just a drive-through place.
Until then try to visualize every visitor as your guest, your website as your office or store and every day as a party you want to invite people to.
Last updated: September 12th, 2017.
* Creative Commons image by Max Mayorov