Why (Almost) All Your SEO And Traffic Generation Could Be A Waste Of Time
If you’re wondering why all of your hard work and money spent on SEO and traffic generation hasn’t yet translated into actual income, or not at the level you would like, this post could reveal the exact problem.
When it comes to online business success, traffic generation shouldn’t be the main focus of your daily action to maximize revenue.
Yes it is obviously crucial but all of the traffic in the world won’t translate into income if you ignore the issues discussed in more detail below.
While it’s very easy to get trapped in a traffic-traffic-traffic mindset (been there and have a wardrobe full of t-shirts), usually it won’t help your business unless you have these other key fundamentals in place on your website.
What You Will Learn
Why traffic generation e.g. SEO, is the completely wrong main focus in your business
The 5 big problems your current traffic generation methods probably have
What heavyweight internet businesses focus mainly on instead
The bad news about people’s buying habits online
The even worse news about how distracted people are online
What to do about it
The Great SEO & Traffic Generation Problem(s)
Right from the outset, it has to be made clear that I am primarily known as an SEO guy, but for the very reasons that will become obvious below, my main business focus now is on email marketing strategy and tactics.
SEO has been and is very good to me.
If done well, few traffic generation tactics can deliver the ROI of SEO in my experience, even with Google’s endless updates.
But, and it’s a pretty large, heavy ‘but’, SEO usually only brings fresh leads to a website.
It’s what happens after those new leads arrive on your website that will determine whether you are successful or not online, or how successful.
It’s that simple.
And worth repeating:
It’s what happens after new leads arrive on your website that determines whether you are successful or not online, or how successful.
It’s not how many people you manage to get to a website in the first place – that’s obsessive SEO thinking that goes nowhere.
If new prospects come to your site once, leave, never come back and you can’t reach them again, what was the point of that traffic if they didn’t buy or engage when they came?
And almost nobody buys on the first visit to a new website, especially without any pre-selling in the form of a referral from someone else’s list of email subscribers.
So if you’re struggling online to make some – or any – money, or you aren’t happy with your current level of online income, look deeply, real deeply, into what happens when and after new leads land on your website/s.
That’s partly because the SEO mindset – more like an addiction and I am speaking from very personal experience here – is all about more and more and more traffic generation.
It was around the end of 2013, going into 2014, when I realized the catastrophic scale of my SEO traffic-obsessed mindset (yes we can call it epic stupidity), despite the overwhelming evidence that pure traffic is not how to succeed online.
Wasted traffic is pointless traffic and I wasted a lot – far far more than I care to even calculate.
For most Internet Marketers (as I used to do), there isn’t that much attention, or any attention at all, paid to the one practice that mega-successful online businesses focus obsessively on:
Building a long-term base of repeat customers that they communicate with frequently via email
Is building a long-term base of repeat customers that you communicate with frequently via email your current top priority?
Think about the last 5 or 10 Internet Marketing information products that you bought online.
How did you hear about them to even consider buying them?
Email probably right?
You’re probably even reading this post or any of Matt’s excellent new research posts on this blog because he told you about them through email.
Notice the pattern.
So the problem with SEO or any type of paid or ‘free’ (apart from your time) traffic generation is that it only brings new leads and cannot build the relationships that you need to build, sustain or grow an online business.
Traffic Gen Problemo #1:
Most people don’tbuy from a new website on the first (and probably last) visit. They just don’t and that’s supported by endless research e.g.
So if most of your hard-earned traffic doesn’t buy on that crucial first time, where does that leave your online business?
Traffic Gen Problemo #2:
People today are more distracted than ever before in human history.
We all have shrinking attention spans. And they’re getting shorter every day as information overwhelm grows.
How many browser tabs/windows do you have open right now? And can you remember any of the new sites you visited for the first time yesterday or last week?
See what I mean.
You may think your website is epic and amazing but your site is ‘up on a catwalk’ competing with millions of other ‘epic’ and ‘amazing’ websites.
In short, your prospects, your leads, are incredibly distracted.
Here’s some research published in Time magazine showing that more than half of new visitors to a new webpage spend less than 15 seconds on it:
15 seconds! What kind of offer can you successfully make in 15 seconds?
So if you have no mechanism to remind your site visitors of your existence, let alone your offers once they leave your website, that traffic is gone, probably forever in most cases.
In my SEO Mastermind circle, I’m constantly shocked by the amount of traffic my hardcore SEO colleagues waste because they have absolutely no followup mechanisms for one-time visitors to their website/s.
It’s crazy old-school dinosaur SEO thinking.
And it’s never been easier to follow up with your site visitors (I’ll get to the solutions in a minute) but they’re stuck – as I was – in the ‘SEO traffic generation’ addiction mindset.
Traffic Gen Problemo #3:
Thirdly, if you aren’t using methods to follow up with your site visitors after they find you, do you think your main niche competitors are making the same amateur mistake?
Regardless of how you personally feel about email marketing because you get too much email, you’re on too many lists, you get too many spammy affiliate offers by email etc etc:
[a] you don’t have to be a spammy affiliate email marketer (look at how Matt and Pat Flynn do it – they refuse to send affiliate offers by email and I hardly ever do it unless I have thoroughly tested the ‘thing’ and actually use it in my own business), and,
email marketing still flat out works and every day that you’re not listbuilding and relationship-building through email, your business is losing money, potentially a lot if you have decent traffic.
Retargeting/remarketing is also essential today but I’ll get to that shortly too.
Traffic Gen Problemo 4:
What are the chances that your new prospect/lead is in the buying mode exactly when they happen to visit your website (for 15 seconds)?
Pretty slim aren’t they.
And that’s regardless of how good your product or service is and today, as the Web gets more saturated with businesses, your product or service should be better than just good, it needs to be exceptional.
And that’s not even to attract new customers, that’s just to have a shot at keeping the ones you already have or ‘luck into’ in the future.
So unless your site visitors are ready and primed to buy for that (probably) 15 second window when they land on your site, there will be no sale.
Obviously no sales = no income.
It’s sounding pretty grim isn’t it but I’ll get to some straightforward solutions shortly.
Traffic Gen Problemo #5:
You are almost never in a kind of direct product comparison marketing battle when selling online.
What I mean by that is people very rarely directly compare all of the features and specifications of one product or service against another when buying.
Generally speaking, we’re usually too lazy to do that – me included.
Instead, to gain new customers, you are in a daily visibility and presence battle, not a product feature battle.
For example, are HostGator and Bluehost the best hosting companies in the world?
On their cheapest packages that have the most customers, they use very old servers that are massively overloaded with customer accounts.
As a result, when any of the sites hosted on those ancient servers get much simultaneous traffic, their page load speeds blow out to crazy times, if the pages will load at all. If you currently have hosting there, check your site speed with multiple visitors over at loadimpact.com
But everywhere you go online, Hostgator and Bluehost have visibility and presence.
You almost can’t avoid them but that doesn’t mean that they offer the best hosting service.
And they attract loads of new customers every day of the week through their omnipresent visibility.
That’s what your online business needs but on a smaller scale.
So Terry, What Do I Do About These Issues?
You have at least a few good options when it comes to making much much better use of your current traffic and changing the focus of your business from raw traffic generation, including SEO, to visitor engagement, relationship-building and follow up.
Matt’s blog here is a great example of that.
Plus, the good news is that there have never been more effective tools – many of them free or very cheap – that allow you do all this stuff on autopilot mostly, including tracking and testing loads of things to multiply your online business.
Option 1: Email Marketing
Think email marketing is old school and unfashionable?
If yes, then so is making serious money online.
From Eben Pagan’s $20m+ per year in dating advice to Brendon Burchard’s $10m+ year to British Airways to Amazon to Appsumo to Groupon to Spotify to Uber to Jeff Walker to Pat Flynn to Matt Woodward, email marketing is either the central engagement channel or extremely important in serious online businesses.
And if you think email marketing involves too much work creating all those followup emails, most of your initial sales conversions will happen – if they are going to happen – in the first 10-14 days i.e. you need 7-10 email messages and a lot of that content can be curated from other sources.
That’s the bulk of what you need to get going, apart from a landing page and some traffic.
Quite simply, most people don’t want to buy without some form of beginning relationship, either through email, a live chat conversation, a referral from someone they already trust or possibly some retargeting to begin brand awareness.
And 2015-style email marketing is light years ahead of what it was like even 5 years ago.
The game has moved on a very long way since then.
In short, and I am speaking from my own experience here, whenever you are moving away from listbuilding and email marketing as skills or practices to learn and apply in your own business, you are probably moving away from greater success, profitability and business growth.
You can of course use a mechanism like Facebook Groups but even there, the update notifications to members come via – you guessed it – email.
Option 2: Retargeting/Remarketing
Though a distant second to the ROI power of email marketing, retargeting (Google calls it ‘remarketing’, same thing) is your 2nd best way to reach past recent visitors to your visitors.
If you’re not familiar with it, let’s say you visit a site about knitting and they have retargeting set up on the knitting site, let’s call it knittingcentral.com.
After you leave knittingcentral.com, you will continue to see knittingcentral.com banner ads on other sites you visit afterwards e.g. knittingcentral.com banners will ‘follow’ you to CNN, or BBC news or a site about vintage cars or one about red wine.
Here are some examples of sites retargeting me from my initial visit to their website, note how their banner ads ‘followed’ me to other sites that have nothing to do with their niche:
This reminds your visitors of your offers and existence, especially if you develop new offers after they have left your site – though generally the fresher the retargeting leads, the better.
Retargeting is a bigger topic for another discussion so I won’t go into the mechanics of it here but in my view, retargeting is the future of banner advertising – because it’s much more customized to each individual visitor rather than the clumsy ‘one size fits all’ approach of yesteryear.
Learning and applying email marketing should be your #1 priority though, closely followed by retargeting – especially to reduce ‘cart abandonment’ – and they are pretty easy skills to acquire.
Once you do get the hang of them, you’ll wonder why you resisted them for so long and how foolish it was to do that.
Option 3: Content Locking-Driven Virality
Finally, you should also ‘content-lock’ access to certain material on your site and insist on a Like, Share, +1 or Tweet to unlock it.
That gives your post or article a greater chance of virality when the Likers or Tweeter’s circle of friends see the link to your site.
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However, ‘content locking’ or ‘like gating’ is a controversial topic over at Facebook and they banned it on Facebook in late 2014.
It may well be that Facebook will ban it outside Facebook in future (they may already have depending on when you read this) but that may be technically challenging to police on their end.
As you may have also noted, Matt does a lot of content locking and it doesn’t hurt his traffic numbers!
Also, if you are using content locking to promote sharing and virality, make sure that your site is very well optimized for email optin when those people do come via their friends’ tweets or shares.
Otherwise, again, that traffic would be wasted.
To summarize your traffic-leak-plugging strategy, you should be:
Collecting email addresses on to a list and then emailing good content to them with the occasional offer – if you are offering a great product or service.
Getting an account at a retargeting company like Perfect Audience (I use them) or Adroll or even Google AdWords, putting the code on your site, building your retargeting lists and testing a lot of different ad banners on your visitors.
Content locking great material on your site to encourage viral sharing.
Ultimately though, email marketing way outperforms the other two conversions-wise, even in 2015 when email inboxes are pretty crowded.
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Wrapping It Up
As you have probably guessed by now, if you are a one-man or one-woman online operation or run a small outfit, relying totally on a single skill like SEO now is just not a good long-term business strategy.
The Web is getting more competitive, paid traffic more expensive, SEO trickier and general distraction among people is escalating.
The solution is to commit, really commit, to getting good at email marketing, getting good at retargeting and growing your main serious business asset:
a growing base of long-term repeat customers that you communicate with frequently via email
And, never forgot that those list subscribers are actual people, pretty similar to you mostly, so don’t ever treat them just as numbers or stats in an Aweber account – treat your list subscribers like Matt treats you and you’ll have a great business on your hands.
If you use email marketing properly, you’ll be shocked at [a] how little traffic you need to earn a good income online and how you can make much more without even needing to increase your traffic numbers.