Traffic counts may be the most common metric used to judge websites. More is always better; visitor volume is the name of the game. If two out of every one hundred visitors convert into paying clients then try to use search optimization as a way to get 10,000 visitors for a 100 fold increase in revenue.
The problem is, it never quite works this way.
Here is an example from my own experience. Back in the 70’s and 80’s my family owned a clothing store in a large mall. We were fortunate in that our store had a door right on the parking lot, and on the other end of the store was a door that let out onto the interior court of the mall. Our traffic could come to us from either direction.
With only a few steps our customers could be from their car into our store shopping for what they needed. Visitors could also access the mall’s interior court through two large walkways on either side of the building our store was in. We had it made with great location and good traffic flow.
At one point the mall ownership needed to close the large access walkway next to our building for remodeling. We quickly realized that our through-store traffic was about to get a substantial boost. Our store was the only one that had access from parking to the mall interior. The other choice was to use the walkway about 60 yards further down the lot. We started getting ready for a blast of new traffic and business.
We got the traffic alright but experienced only a small increase in business. We realized only a modest 8-10% increase in year over year business.
Lack of Qualification
What happened can be described as a lack of qualification. Before the traffic levels increased through our store we served customers who sought us out by name or reputation, prospects that needed the clothes we sold. The traffic boost that came through our store during the remodel was almost completely unqualified; the traffic was there because it was more convenient than walking 60 yards to the other open walkway.
I’ve withheld a bit of information to this point. I’ve stated we were a clothing store but that is too general. We sold casual and dress clothes for boys and young men, plus we had Boy Scout supplies and a hobby shop. That’s a pretty narrow and specialized kind of store suddenly dealing with a lot of general interest traffic.
You can bet that a number of the people who passed through our store weren't happy about it; we had become an obstacle in their search for the merchandise they really wanted. It’s about the same feeling of annoyance as clicking on a link in Google or Bing after searching for stereo equipment and finding only speaker wire for sale.
No Benefit in Unqualified Traffic
This illustrates the problem of simply trying to increase traffic to a website. If the traffic isn't qualified there is little to no benefit for either the visitor or the site. Further, if the visitor arrives expecting one thing but finds another, they will seldom switch into 'discovery mode' and take the time to learn more about a website that didn't quite answer their original search.
When it comes to our websites it's best to optimize them for fairly specific search terms. We might push more traffic through our sites with generic, top-level phrases such as 'cameras', but does your site offer every camera made? The more specific the term we pursue in optimizing our web presence the better qualified our traffic will be. This way the increased traffic will be relevant and far more likely to convert.
Increase Your Conversion Rate
Here is a tip: Begin by viewing site traffic backwards – starting from conversion and working back toward how that client entered the site. Next, identify the visitors who converted after arriving at the site via organic search (using search terms other than the site’s brand name). These are the visitors we want more of; start pursuing these searchers before branching out to other traffic sources. Turn up the volume of qualified visitors from search and see site conversions increase at a higher rate.