Is Your Website Getting Too Much Traffic?

Image of a large crowd in a stadium.

A big crowd -- but is it the right audience?

Is your website getting a lot of traffic? Yes? Good for you.

On second thought…is it, really? Good for you, I mean.

There’s long been a school of thought that with websites, traffic is everything. But that’s not really true, is it? If all that volume isn’t getting you leads, or conversions, or whatever it is you measure success by, what good is it doing you?

One of the first things I tell my clients is, “You need to figure out who your audience should be.”  If your business model is selling widgets to wholesalers, but your traffic volume is primarily from individual consumers who are looking for cheap widgets, it means your content isn’t hitting the right marks.

Here’s my rule:

Create content for the audience you want.

And this often means you’re going to lose some traffic. But it’s likely that traffic wouldn’t have done you any good, anyway.

Gerry McGovern really captured this in a recent post. In “The Accidental Website Visitor,” McGovern notes that 50 percent (or more!) of traffic coming to a typical website is from the accidental visitor — that is, someone who isn’t the target audience, and who’s unlikely to find what he or she is looking for on that site.  That’s not a good user experience; nor it is reflective of a good content strategy.

But we’re often adherents to what McGovern calls the “Cult of Volume,” which believes that more traffic is better. And that just isn’t true. Notes McGovern:

Volume is a deeply negative metric for web success. No other metric encourages worst practice more than measuring success based on number of visitors.

Exactly so. It’s time for some deprogramming, folks. Your website shouldn’t be judged by its volume of visitors, any more than it should be judged by its number of pages. It should be about getting the right message to the right people so they can take action — action that benefits both them and you.

As a case study, McGovern describes a specialist government health website that was supposed to be reaching medical researchers looking for grants. Instead, it attracted lots of casual consumers looking for information about health issues. Not surprisingly, customer-satisfaction survey results were abysmal. What did they do?

“To stop attracting accidental visitors the web team stripped out general health phrases from their content and deleted a whole bunch of pages, keeping only the pages that were directly related to medical research grants. They de-search engine optimized. They used more technical, scientific terms which were perfectly understandable to their medical research audience. Over time their traffic dropped by 80 percent, while their customer satisfaction rose dramatically.

They had a smaller website and that allowed them to better manage it and have more up to date, higher quality content. Medical researchers were much happier. Those looking for general health information were much happier because they weren’t ending up on the wrong website.”

That doesn’t surprise me at all, since I’ve seen my clients enjoy the same type of results once they narrow their focus. You might lose some traffic, but you make it up in qualified prospects, better conversion, and greater visitor satisfaction. Call it the Cult of the Happy Customer.

Now there’s a cult worth belonging to.

Image courtesy Kevin Briody via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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