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All Website Traffic Is Not Created Equal
by Angela Wu © Copyright.

Website owners are bombarded with offers to help them get more 
visitors. Yet 'traffic', in and of itself, just doesn't cut it. 
The goal is to drive sales, subscriptions, inquiries, bookings, 
applications, or whatever it is that you do.

There really is 'good' traffic and 'bad' traffic. Some may argue 
that if getting the traffic is free, then it's worth it. To the 
contrary, even free traffic can have negative consequences. For 

 - You pay for bandwidth. Buying traffic is easy... but 
   if that traffic doesn't translate into sales, then
   why bother? You're stuck with the bill for both the
   traffic and the bandwidth, with nothing to show for it.

 - If you place third-party links or banners on your site 
   in return for a share of traffic, you still pay the 
   price in possible lost opportunity: visitors may leave 
   your site due to the extra load time for the banners
   or links, or because they get distracted from your 
   main message. 

Many of the less-effective methods to get traffic are based on 
a 'numbers game' -- that is, they try to get as much traffic as 
possible, in the hopes that someone will buy (eg. out of a 
million visitors, maybe one person will make a purchase... a 
pathetic conversion rate, but still a sale). Some of these 
methods include:

- Classified ad sites. People generally go to post ads, 
  not to read them. Enough said.

- FFA sites ('Free-For-All' websites): add your link to 
  the hundreds of others on the site. You'll be lucky if 
  you get a trickle of traffic - and if you do, chances 
  are that it's not targeted enough to do you any good.
  Plus your email box is likely to get flooded with sp@m.
  Don't get sucked into buying your own FFA site either;
  the 'benefit' is supposed to be that you can send a
  confirmation email to everyone who posts a link, 
  however, the chances of you getting reported as a 
  sp@mmer are high.

- Automated banner or link exchanges. People have learned 
  to ignore banners, and these types of exchanges often 
  don't allow you to pick and choose who you want to trade 
  with. They're rarely effective. Better to handle any 
  exchanges on your own.

- Traffic-generating programs such as start or exit page
  programs, popups, popunders, and so forth. Unless you
  can specifically target the audience, these programs
  are generally ineffective. Those who use them are 
  usually more interested in generating extra 'credits' 
  to display their own site, rather than genuinely 
  interested in any of the other sites in the network.

- 'Safe lists'. This is a misnomer, with addresses that
  are usually harvested and distributed without permission.
  Chances are you'll end up with a great many complaints 
  if you mail to these lists and very few, if any, sales.

The more effective methods of generating traffic involve 
finding people who already have an interest in your 
product or service and directing them to your website.

+ Search engine traffic is wonderful because visitors
  search you out, rather than the other way around. Find 
  out what key phrases people use to search for the type 
  of products or services that you sell. Then work at 
  getting your site listed on the first few pages 
  (preferably the first page) of the search results. 
  A good primer to search engine optimization is 
  included in the Site Sell package, 
  http://onlinebusinessbasics.com/myss.html .

+ Pay-per-click search engines allow you to buy your 
  position in the search results. Again, you have to 
  find the right key phrases or all your efforts are 
  wasted. The good thing about PPC campaigns is that 
  you only pay for click-throughs to your site - so if 
  no one clicks, you don't pay. 

+ Major directories such as Yahoo and Open Directory. A 
  listing in these directories can help to bring more 
  interested visitors to your site as well as provide a 
  boost in your link popularity. At the time of writing, 
  submissions to Open Directory are currently free so 
  be sure to take advantage of it ( http://www.dmoz.org/ ). 
  Yahoo charges an annual fee for commercial websites; 
  review whether or not you think it's worth the money. 
  ( http://www.yahoo.com/ )

+ Niche or specialty directories are excellent because 
  the people who visit them are searching for information, 
  products, and services on specific topics. Start with
  http://www.finderseeker.com/ to check for specialty 
  search engines, or visit http://beaucoup.com/ .

+ Targeted links allow you to 'share' traffic with other
  relevant sites. Your link strategy should include both 
  the submission of your links to appropriate directories, 
  encouraging others to link to you (by providing easy
  instructions, as well as great content), and trading 
  links with quality sites in your niche. WebFerret is 
  a handy tool to help you find potential link partners: 
  http://www.webferret.com/ . For more information, visit

+ Reviews and endorsements. Naturally you'll say that 
  your product or service is good. When someone else 
  says it, it has more impact. Consider offering a copy 
  of your product for review. If the reviewer likes it, 
  he or she may give you some good free publicity.

  Even 'implied endorsements' can work in your favor. An
  example of an implied endorsement is when your article
  or column appears in quality publications other than
  your own. Your credibility is boosted by that of the
  other publication.

+ Referral business is often overlooked, yet it's one 
  of the most powerful ways to do business. Keep your 
  customers happy and ask them to send others to you. 
  You can even provide incentives for them to do so, 
  if appropriate. An article on generating referrals
  is available at 

+ Publicity. Press releases and interviews offer a good
  way to draw attention to your business without incurring
  the costs of advertising. This can be especially powerful
  if your business is written up in a popular printed
  magazine; people often keep magazines or pass them

+ Targeted print advertising in respected trade or 
  specialty publications that reach a wide audience within 
  your niche. Test a few of the more affordable ads to see 
  the response - then, if you are happy with the results,
  consider trying a larger or different type of ad.

Finally, make sure you monitor the results from each of your 
marketing campaigns to find out what works best for your 
business. Refine your campaigns and build upon your successes.

Angela is the editor of Internet Marketing Truths, Tips, and 
Tools, a beginner's guide to marketing online. You'll find loads 
of instantly useable tips and links, in a down-to-earth style 
that even marketing "newbies" can understand! Pick up your copy 
at: http://onlinebusinessbasics.com/article.html 

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