“Engagement far more important than followers.”
– Mike Essex
Does referral traffic matter?
I get a couple thousand pageviews a day. Yet my referral traffic is nothing. In fact, less than 50% of my readers come from another website.
When I woke up this morning I had 828 pageviews. Not bad for a Saturday morning. Of those hits only 284 had been brought in by an outside source.
Today I want to talk about a secret that many people don’t realize. Referral links and social media traffic aren’t all that important. Despite what the gurus with their $1,000 seminars might say, you can have a perfectly fine blog without worrying about SEO or Twitter.
More hits and outside traffic is nice, but not something you should lose sleep over. I wouldn’t even place it in your top 5 priorities.
And here’s why:
Viral content doesn’t mean much
A month ago I wrote a post titled One secret to triple your motivation. The post got picked up on Reddit and several thousand people came pouring in. I must have gotten a ton of new fans, right?
If I gained 20 new readers I’d be surprised.
While the viral post got swamped, all my other articles received normal amounts of traffic. That means people were only looking at one piece before they packed up and left.
Huge aggregator sites, like Reddit, are filled with tire kickers. Some guy is bored at work so he thumbs through links looking for something to distract him. He might click over to your site, but he’ll leave two seconds later. Casual browsers seeking entertainment leave just as quickly as they arrived.
Getting an extra 2,000 hits might boost your ego, but it has no long-term impact if the viewers don’t stick around. Developing a fanbase is much more important.
How a Facebook hoax made me a better blogger
NPR, National Public Radio for those out of the loop, played a brilliant prank on its audience. They released an article titled Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?
To stir up controversy and troll readers they published this piece on Facebook.
The post, when you clicked through the Facebook link, congratulated you on actually reading the article. Then it instructed readers to share the post without commenting on it. That way NPR could gauge how many people read the piece verses all the people who pretend to.
This article, which was under 100 words, told readers that it was a prank right in the first sentence. As long as you clicked the link you’d know not to comment. Yet thousands of people shared it. Many of them wrote angry comments about how disappointing it was that no one reads anymore.
And these weren’t stupid people either. Some of them were, allegedly, big readers and intellects.
NPR, which caters to an upper-class and well read crowd, has a huge audience that’s too lazy to actually read their content. And these are people who claim to love books and mental challenges. This means that the average guy doesn’t have a fighting chance. Most of the crowd that viral content brings in isn’t even reading the first sentence.
Why you need fans
A week or two ago Well Built Style, check him out if you’re looking for fashion advice, tweeted an article about the importance of having 1,000 true fans. You should read through the whole post, but here’s a quote that summarizes the concept:
“Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day’s wages per year in support of what you do. That ‘one-day-wage’ is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let’s peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.”
A casual browser who gets roped in by clickbait won’t buy anything. They’ll be out the door within seconds. That’s why major sites rely on ads. Shoving a commercial in your face is a lot easier than getting you to read a 2,000 word product review.
Unless you have the type of cash to launch a huge publication, ads won’t work. They’ll make the site look tacky and that’s about it.
You need fans.
A fan will order your eBook, buy a product you recommend, or donate money to you. They like you and want to support your work.
Some random guy isn’t going to do anything for you. A fan will help however they can. One fan is worth 1,000 unfocused pageviews.
What attracts fans?
I only buy Ralph Lauren shoes. Even the flip-flops I wear to the bathroom. That’s the brand I like.
Every shoe I’ve bought from them has looked great and held up to all kinds of wear and tear. The company has built up a great reputation with me.
You want to build up the same type of reputation with your readers. Deliver high quality material that they can use. You don’t always have to break new ground, but you should be sharing stuff that provides real value.
Also, keep in mind Warren Buffet’s classic advice:
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Lying, offending your readers, or doing other things that tarnish your reputation will cause trouble. Plenty of bloggers and writers develop a massive ego that upsets their audience and destroys their career. Don’t be like them. Stay humble.
Is referral traffic important at all?
Most people could make snappy articles that drum up views, read this post to learn how, but attracting the reader is only half the battle. Referral traffic can get people through the door, but it can’t keep them around. Good content, a solid reputation, and a strong voice are what engages visitors.
You should definitely try to get new people to your site, but that doesn’t need to be your main goal. Your readership will naturally grow over time.
Instead of putting all your effort into quick traffic spikes try to publish valuable content that keeps people coming back.