By now most of us have read an article or two (or 10) about how to increase traffic to our Web sites. Change a headline and traffic increases. Put keywords in your Web link and you get higher placement on Google. Get other sites to link to you and your page rank may rise. The basic assumption is that getting found in Google and other search engines is a good thing and that increasing traffic will result in more customers and more revenue.
But a simple question needs to be asked: How much are those SEO-generated users really worth? As usual, research is the key to the answer.
Throughout the fourth quarter of 2010, Scout Analytics profiled the relationship between frequency of visit and engagement for users at eight publishing Web sites. In the course of their research they developed four different profiles of Web site users:
- Fly-by - Someone generated by search engine optimization (SEO) who visits a site once.
- Occasional – A visitor to the site two to three times per month.
- Regular - A visitor to the site one to two times per week.
- Fan - A visitor to the site more than two times per week.
The research quantified the revenue potential of loyal visitors (fans) to a site versus fly-bys generated by SEO. While SEO was the largest source of unique visitors and added quite a lot to the unique user base, the research revealed that loyal visitors had an average revenue potential of 50:1 when compared to fly-bys. (Occasionals had an an average revenue potential of 5:1 compared to fly–bys. Regulars, 10:1.) Simply put, a site’s frequent visitors are the ones who consume the most content and generate the most revenue.
Despite all the hype about unique visitors and SEO, running a successful Web site is no different than running any other business. “Very few publishers can build a sustainable business with SEO as their core strategy,” says Matt Shanahan, senior vice president of strategy for Scout. “It’s critical to develop long-term relationships.”
So, if SEO is your Web strategy, you may want to rethink the value of attracting those visitors. Just like in fielding respondents, quality trumps quantity every time.