- “Don’t put all your traffic eggs in one basket”
- “Don’t rely on Google for traffic”
- “Don’t count on Facebook for traffic”
- “You gotta control your traffic source”
The more I do this IM gig, the more I realize all of the above is nonsense.
Let’s consider the above from a few scenarios and you tell me if I’m right (I’m bracing myself for some serious backlash).
Scenario 1: The Google Guru
You’re a good little doobie. You built a blog that gets only 40% of traffic from Google, 25% from email and 35% from social media. Well done young Luke. You’re diversified. You’re safe. You control your destiny.
But do you control your own destiny?
Suppose in this diversified scenario Google drops the hammer and deindexes your site.
You suffer a 40% traffic loss.
More to the point, unless you get reindexed, you suffer no free Google traffic forever.
Close your eyes and imagine this happening.
Now ask yourself: How motivated are you to keep building up that site?
Answer: You feel like you were sucker punched in the gut. You look for your resume buried in the bowels of your laptop through tears. One thing is for sure: you don’t feel like working on that site.
But you still have 60% of your traffic from email and social media? one might argue.
Come on! Do you think you’re gonna keep investing in a site deindexed? Of course not unless you have some wicked traffic buying scheme underway.
Scenario 2: The Social Media Maestro
You got whacked by Google so you’re gonna show Google by focusing on social media. Been there, done that.
But you still have a bit love for that free Google traffic so you hedge. You create both clickbait content and some long form Google friendly stuff… just in case.
You study and test social media cause that’s your focus now. You crack the code. In 6 months you have 500,000 Facebook fans sending 50,000 visitors to your blog daily hardly working at all. Life is good.
All of a sudden, FB does the unthinkable. They cut your reach by 80%. That’s an 80% income cut. Yikes. That wasn’t part of the deal.
In the meantime your hedge resulted in 100 long form articles. You’re getting 2,000 visitors to that content per day from Google… but that’s a far cry from the 50K you were getting from FB.
Are you motivated to rehab the site?
No you’re not. Unless you fix the FB reach problem, the site is toast. Let’s just hope you saved a few bucks.
Scenario 3: The Email Marketer
Like a good soldier, you focused on building your email list for 4 years. You have 500,000 subscribers. You can generate $40,000 per month blindfolded with two emails. You have it made in the shade. You’re in control.
Gmail could blindside you and put your emails in spam. Boom, you’re toast.
Also, you need more leads regularly. Where do you get those? You need some traffic source.
Scenario 4: The Paid Prince
Maybe you’ve found a paid source of traffic you can both scale and profit from. If so, nice!
Paid traffic is often not a long term source unless you have insane margins and/or you work your campaigns like a fiend every day. It’s certainly not passive. I can tell you from personal experience.
If margins are sweet, milk it for all it’s worth.
Via the above scenarios, there are 3 take-aways:
1. There’s no such thing as diversified traffic
It doesn’t matter how diversified your traffic is.
If any site you own takes a 40 to 50% hit on traffic that you can’t recover, it’s game over. Been there, done that.
Here’s the deal.
When you have a sweet traffic gig underway, focus on it and max it out.
- If Google traffic is exploding, hire writers and ramp up the content marketing.
- If FB traffic is crashing your server, milk it. It’s just too bad you can’t post 500 times per day (well you could, but that would probably annoy some fans).
- If Pinterest traffic is climbing, hire a graphic designer (or 5) and pin like there’s no tomorrow.
- If a paid source is printing money, increase your paid budget until profits are maxed out.
For most sites, losing Google traffic is a death nail. Not all, but most. Even sites that are “diversified” such as only getting 40% of traffic from Google. Losing that 40% of traffic is bad, bad, bad.
2. Milk your best traffic sources as much as possible
If you have one or two dominant traffic sources, max it out. Take advantage of it. Don’t waste time diversifying cause if your top traffic source dies, even if you’ve “diversified”, the site is toast anyway.
No traffic source is a long term guarantee. We like to think so. I know I do, but realistically, my best sites today might be worthless in 10 years. I hope not, but it’s possible.
As a side note, the uncertainty of IM is a compelling reason to sell for top dollar when you can. Be like Seinfeld and exit at the top 🙂 .
3. This post is a worst-case scenario post
I don’t want to come across suggesting that you’re entire online biz is doomed. It’s not, although Google Penguin and FB killing reach sure hurt a lot of publishers in recent years.
The fact of the matter is there is no guarantee.
Google could be worth nothing in 2 years if a better search engine comes along.
Facebook could be worth nothing if 50% of it’s users bail and use a better mousetrap.
The Web is fickle. We’re all dependant on something. Sometimes it’s short term hacks and tactics we have to milk. Ideally we have sound long term business plans that have good odds of surviving long term, but some times we must cash in on short term opportunities, and that’s okay.
Just don’t fall for the “diversify your traffic” claptrap cause if you lose your top traffic source, no matter how diversified, you’re toast.
There are exceptions of course to every rule.
1. Direct Traffic
I aspire for this. I’m not sure I’m capable though, but this is my dream.
I would like to create a site that is so totally awesome that the lion’s share of traffic is from people coming to it directly every day. You know, one of those sites that’s an institution which people visit and share because it’s part of their daily online routine. Now, that’s awesome.
Of course, I’d want it to be millions of people (or hundreds of thousands of daily visitors).
It’s a rare site that achieves this and it usually requires something exceptional or mega resources (i.e. the main news sites). I’d prefer something where it’s just me and a couple of VA’s producing something exceptional. Little overhead, huge traffic and monster profits. That’s what I’m talking about. If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear ’em below.
FYI, I’ve not yet achieved such a site. I’d love it if I could, but to date it eludes me.
2. You go from 100,000,000 to 50,000,000 monthly visitors
The issue is also one of scale.
I surely wouldn’t bail on a site that suffered a traffic hemorrhage from 100 million to 50 million monthly visitors. I think I could be pretty happy with 50 million visitors unless of course the site loses money due to massive overhead.
All kidding aside, us regular bloggers ain’t dealing with such lofty numbers. We’re in a scramble trying to grow and so when we go from 100,000 to 50,000 visits per month, that’s a setback seemingly impossible to recover from.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.