25 Mar Drive Traffic Through Online Ecosystems
In the last couple of posts, we’ve been talking about the three-axis business model and delving into the temperatures of traffic. Which are both things that are referred to in my book The Google Gamble, which is all about search traffic in particular, how to get it, how it works and what to look out for. But today, what I would like to do is delve more deeply into traffic, and to talk about the four major online ecosystems that generate traffic.
The Traffic Myth
Let me start with a common misconception. Most people think that having a website is having traffic. And really honestly, you could not be farther from the truth. Because when you build a website — large or small, wonderful or terrible, beautifully designed or not — it’s just kind of like planting a tree in a desert. And unless someone comes by, your tree will wind up being isolated and alone, and without any real visitors. The trick is, therefore, to make sure that your tree, as it were, is planted at the intersections of many paths, many caravans going by, and therefore, your tree will eventually grow to become an oasis.
So how do you do that? What are some of those tracks that you can have? Those caravans walking past your tree in the desert — well, these are the four major traffic ecosystems. There are certainly more, but these are the four that you should definitely consider when forming an ongoing traffic strategies for your business. They are, in no particular order: search, social, purchase and video.
Search is Structure
Let’s start by talking about search. Everyone’s heard about search; they call it SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, but that doesn’t really mean much. Search really means the art and science of being found on Google, being found on Yahoo, being found on Bing, being found anywhere. That there is a established traffic and devoting part of that flow to your website — that’s what everybody means by search. And it turns out that Google doesn’t speak the same language that you speak — or rather, let me give you an example from my high school days.
When I was in high school it turns out I was great at maths, terrible at English. And I had a particular teacher who kept getting angry at me and gave me terrible marks every time I wrote an essay. He kept saying, “You have no structure,” and I just kept thinking I had no idea what he meant. I was doing great essays as far as I was concerned, very creative and lateral and interesting. But that’s not what he wanted, and he couldn’t understand the structure, the way I was writing what I was writing, or he didn’t want to. He wasn’t interested.
So then he took me aside, we had some remedial classes at lunch along with a half dozen of his other kids. He showed me that every paragraph had to start with a sentence that introduced a topic and have three to four supporting sentences but never more. And every time you had a new idea you had a new paragraph, and the very beginning paragraph had one sentence that summarized each of the paragraph to come, and the very last paragraph had a sentence to summarize each of the paragraph that had come before. And so a structure was built up, that allowed people to understand what was coming, and what just had happened in my essay.
And suddenly, when I adopted the structure, with the very same content, the very same ideas, I started to getting great marks, and finally rose to the top of the English charts in school. All I had to do is learn the structure that was required. And that is the knack of search, is to learn the structure that is required, and I won’t go into this except to say, I’ve written a book on this, and it’s called The Google Gamble; it will take you through the on-page and some of the off-page structure that Google is looking for as a try to decide who is the best answer to any one question. So search: it’s foundational, it’s fundamental, you should pay attention to it — but not too much attention, because at its heart it’s a gamble. So I’d say 10-15% of your time should be spent on search for all but a very few businesses.
Social Takes Mastery
Let’s move on to social. Social media is a potential massive source of really great traffic. However, most people still do what I would call “old school social media.” I summarize it as “throw up a bunch of crap and hope for the best.” What I mean here is that so many social media professionals have the strategy that if you just write something, if you just post something with a reasonable frequency, then you ‘ll get traffic, and this is just not the case. It might have been in the early days, but it’s just not the case anymore. It turns out that the big social media engines like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest are all in the business of making money. With that in mind, general random posts aren’t given much ranking; they fail to rise to the top of the newsfeed and as a result aren’t seen. It’s only when you master the advertising engines that live behind Facebook, that live behind LinkedIn and Pinterest and so on that you will actually start to get traffic. And when you do, you will get amazing traffic. That’s the second ecosystem.
Purchase is Powerful
The third ecosystem is purchase. And when I mean purchase, what I am talking about is people who go online specifically to buy something. These are not people who are cruising to entertain themselves or to do research or find an answer; these are people who have money at the ready to actually buy something. Where do they go? Well, in large part they go to Amazon, because that’s the most trusted purchasing ecosystem online. It has been building that reputation over many years and unbelievably, in 2015, it eclipsed Wal-Mart as the largest sales company in the world. So having your products and services available through purchasing ecosystems like Amazon, let alone on your own website, turns out to be an important strategy when it comes to traffic.
Video Engages Impactfully
The fourth and final major ecosystem is video, and I’ve saved the best for last. Video, it turns out, is radically more compelling than images, and images are radically more compelling than just words for most people. This is reflected in the US Bureau of Statistics Research, which says that people watch, on average 5 to 7 hours worth of television , video, or YouTube — wherever they get their video fix — per day and those same people read between 10 and 20 minutes worth of blog posts and email and texts. So you have to ask yourself: do you want to be where the traffic is? Yes! If so, you are making video.
In addition to being easier to watch — and it makes sense that people watch more TV than read books — in addition to being easier to watch, video converts more highly because it’s more energetically impactful and engaging, so it’s not only better traffic, it’s better quality traffic once you actually have it. And if you’re talking about video, chances are you should be talking about YouTube, which is the second-largest search engine in the world, equal to the next 12 search engines combined, and the largest source of video traffic anywhere.
Drive the Traffic You Need
So those are the four ecosystems, and when you are creating a traffic strategy to drive hundreds or thousands of people to your business — or tens of thousands of people to your business — every month, you should be thinking in terms of those four ecosystems. Beyond those are four or five more minor systems that are not a match for every business. But once you’ve mastered those four, there are certainly more to go if you wish to explore further.