Why you must diversify your traffic sources

A friend of mine has had a bad time this past week. For many of you reading this, it’s the stuff of nightmares.

Over the past few years he has built a really busy and profitable online business. His website traffic has allowed him to open a factory and employ a bunch of staff.

Through some clever search engine optimization, he managed to rank #1 on most of his main high volume targeted keywords. Daily the leads kept coming in, so much so that he was at times, up to a month behind in website inquiries.

He really was seeing the fruits of how amazing an online business can be. In his case, customers were basically free through really good SEO.

However, as we’ve discussed many times before, he needed to look at ways to both protect his ranking and to find other diverse traffic sources. He is a smart guy, so he knew that this was the best thing to do.

Unfortunately, he didn’t diversify his traffic until this week, when he simply had no choice.

You see, even though he was doing all the right things in the eyes of the search engines (strictly white hat SEO), you can’t always predict what might happen in business.

In his case, his site got hacked and someone injected hundreds of porn links into his site. No more than 1 day later his site dropped off the face off the earth. The only term that he ranked for was his own unique business name.

So now he’s scrambling to sort out his ranking and looking at other ways to drive traffic. This is something he should have done long ago, and has now been forced to do.

Once he removed the problematic script that allowed the hack, he requested a reconsideration via Google Webmaster tools. Some of his rankings have returned, but not the key ones. We’ll be watching that carefully.

Are you guilty of this kind of thing? Putting all your eggs in one basket? It’s a dangerous place to be that is for sure.

My friend agrees. Here’s an interesting part of our Skype conversation.

Our skype conversation...

In many ways, I see the difference in business maturity based a lot around how the business owners generate their traffic.

As part of the Behavioral Science degree I did at college, we studied a whole stream called “Development Through The Lifespan” where we learned about the different stages of life.

We can look at our online business in a similar way, especially our approach to driving new business.

In some ways, it fits quite neatly into the following. Of course, like all analogies, it won’t work in every case, but it’s useful nonetheless.

Infant: Well I guess at this stage, most of our traffic probably comes from our friends and family. :)

Child: At this stage, the business gets all their traffic from free, largely uncontrollable sources like SEO and Social Networks. Good while it works, but very difficult to scale reliably into a big business that makes a lot of money.

Teenager: The business looks at diversifying and may rely on affiliates to send them traffic. This is a nice safe way of growing the business so that you only have to pay money when you get it. However, the affiliates are in control of your growth and are likely to move on when the next shiny opportunity comes along.

Adulthood: When your business can be considered an “Adult” is when you’re able to reliably purchase advertising (like PPC and Banners) and make a positive return on investment. You have complete control over the destiny of your business and you can in many ways scale on demand.

The problem with reaching this stage of maturity is that it’s a bit scary and you are likely to blow some cash in discovering what works and what doesn’t.

When you hear about the affiliates who are making the really big dollars (as in 7 figures plus), they are leveraging this dynamic.

They are experienced online marketers who have reached adulthood. They have a level of maturity where they can buy traffic on demand and turn it into dollars.

So they are able to see businesses who are at the teenage maturity level (so play it safe and only pay on performance through their affiliates) and have the experience to go out and get the traffic on demand and make the numbers works.

Whereas, the site owners themselves should be taking control and doing the same. It’s the only way they can be confident in the future growth of their own business. They aren’t putting it into the hands of a group of, at times, fickle affiliates.

Whenever I hear people say that they are happy to keep doing what they’ve always done with their free traffic sources, I get a bit disappointed. I know that their business will always be smaller and less successful than it should be.

Yeah, I know, PPC and other forms of buying advertising can be hard. I think it's a fact of life that anything worthwhile is at times difficult. However if you want to build a robust business that reaches its true potential, you’ve got no other choice than to learn the craft of buying controlled and targeted traffic.

This week, the friend I shared about has no other choice. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Have you got any stories like this, or any other comments? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

UPDATE: We've just reviewed a new ebook on high performance PPC. Highly recommended. See the whole review here.

March 11, 2010

Comments (11)

Said this on March 11, 2010 At 10:34 am
Hi Jay,

excellent article :)

It took me several years of being in business to learn that specific lesson...I guess, however, that we all have to go through these stages somehow.

Being in control of your business is one of the most important aspects...and not only when it comes to marketing.

My EmailUnlimited email marketing software used to be a standalone desktop-based software, delivering email through your ISP's SMTP servers.

A friend of mine had the idea of turning it into an email delivery service, so he wrote the corresponding server application (based on Unix, which I don't understand).

It worked fine...until some day he decided to blackmail me. I realized that I had lost control of my very own business.

I decided to get out of this partnership immediately, got my lawyers after him to keep the service operating for a while, and meanwhile created my own version of the email delivery service.

It were months of very hard work, but it turned-out well :)

While we may not be in the same league with the big boys like ConstantContact, I am the proud owner of a thriving little business with lots of happy users. I'm in control, and I do not have to share my profits with somebody I could not rely on.

And yes, we do PPC...SEO somehow never really made any sense to me.

Always my best,

John Vorwerk
Said this on March 11, 2010 At 07:40 pm
Owwch. That hurts, and gives me nightmares. What platform was it that got hacked? And was it well protected? I'm overly-paranoid and OTT with bolstering onsite security (where I can).

Hope the spammers get crushed by Kharma. And hope your buddy ReRanks quickly.
Said this on March 15, 2010 At 06:50 am
I guess it's important to recognise that there is more than one way to create a high-profile site. John says above that SEO never made sense to him. That's okay: PPC never made much sense to me.

1) It didn't make sense to me to pay for a site to be near the top of the search listings when that site was best-of-industry anyway. That just seemed like the search engines canvassing for bribes for doing the job they should be doing anyway.

2) It didn't make sense for me to have to pay for repeat visitors. (You know, the ones who discover your adwords link, click on it, visit your site, like it, don't bookmark it... and next time they go through the entire same process again... and you keep paying every time that repeat visitor returns).

3) It didn't make sense to me that someone with a site with an inferior level of information but deeper pockets should have access to greater public exposure than their counterpart in the opposite position.

So I stuck with SEO. Partly on principle, partly as an acknowledgement of economic reality - it was a requirement of my business plan in the early stages to run everything on as tight a budget as possible.

However I do agree with you about eggs and baskets! On that basis - and only now, for the first time, after working on the web for 13 years (!) - I am now looking at PPC.

But I am treading very carefully. It's a very different game from SEO. Indeed, I am prioritising Social Media above PPC.

That said, SEO - securing constant long-term, high positions in the organic serps on the basis of high quality, well-respected, informational content - is likely to remain my mainstay of traffic generation for the next few years or more.
Said this on March 16, 2010 At 04:19 pm
Great article. I have been working on SEO with my site and would like to get some free traffic first, before I start with PPC, even though I know that this is the way to get traffic and earn money quickly. I eventually plan on using PPC, but want to get some search engine rankings first. Does that sound wrong? Should I be doing PPC first?
Said this on March 17, 2010 At 07:00 pm
No, that's not wrong. You want traffic from a variety of sources and the more free traffic you can attract the less you will have to spend on running PPC campaigns. If you subscribe to our newsletter, you'll get Allan's bonus "77 Ways to Get Traffic Nearly All Free". This may give you a few more ideas about getting the important free traffic to your site. Good luck - Glennys
Said this on March 17, 2010 At 09:43 pm
What are the best ways to find keywords in your niche, can't imagine how long experimenting with different keywords would take. Also what are you favorite ppc sites to use?
Said this on March 19, 2010 At 07:42 am
Wow, scary eye-opener for sure! I guess I never really thought how dependent you can become on pure search engine traffic. It seems so much time and effort is spent on SEO, whereas as you mention looking at diversification options is a very important consideration.
Said this on March 30, 2010 At 02:32 pm
Very good article! Everyone talks about having many monetization models, but that's the first time that I read about diversifying your traffic sources! Very important and... frightning!

Said this on May 27, 2010 At 07:44 am
this is good to know abt the traffic sources
Said this on July 7, 2010 At 06:46 am
A fictional factory opened made possible by free traffic?

Said this on February 28, 2012 At 03:46 am

Using PPC indeed could generate traffic into your website. But why settle for something that tends to increase your budget wherein there is more effective and natural ways to attract visitors to your website? And that is to use pure white hat SEO in the campaign.

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