Traffic is the wrong thing to chase for your web business

How much do you like being called “traffic”? For that’s what most website owners think you are. To them you are just a number. They can look at their analytics and go “wow, traffic is up year on year; excellent”. You can find all sorts of information across the web about “how to increase your traffic”, or “easy ways to get more traffic” – including from “big guns” like Microsoft. You can even buy website traffic.

It's not about traffic; it's about individuals

It’s not about traffic; it’s about individuals

It’s the same in the retail world for many shops; all they are interested in is “footfall“. They want to know how many people are visiting their shop, in just the same way as online businesses want to know how many people visited their site. But focusing on traffic is nonsense; it’s the wrong place to start your online business considerations.

In the 1960s British TV series, The Prisoner, “Number Six” tells us “I am not a number, I am a free man“. We hate being numbers – just being part of “traffic”, or “footfall”. And when as a business you concentrate on traffic or footfall you begin to lose sight of one important fact: these are people, not numbers. Chasing traffic influences the way you think about your website visitors and then it affects what you do and how you treat them.

Consider shops that treat you as an individual; do you like those shops? Or do you prefer going into stores where you are clearly just another statistic? And what about websites that treat you personally? Do you prefer them to the sites that emblazon their statistics of the number of visitors they have in some little “badge of honour”? The sites that have their stats on show, or who don’t connect with you as an individual have probably focused on numbers, on traffic. Whereas the sites that treat you as an individual probably start with the notion of connecting and making relationships.

The not so curious fact is that when you make relationships you will get the traffic simply because people like you. Whereas if you focus on traffic you are in a never-ending battle to win new people over all the time. The only way you can increase your traffic is to constantly focus on traffic, looking for tricks and techniques that get more people to your site. And true, you can get millions of people to your site using many of these techniques. But, rather like retail footfall, what’s the point of all those visitors if they do nothing while there?

By focusing on website traffic, many businesses are not making as much money online as might be possible for them. That’s because they need to generate even more traffic each year in order to make more money. But the people who create relationships are more easily able to make increased profits because the visitors who have relationships with them are likely to spend more because they like the company. In other words, going the traffic route is like being on a non-stop treadmill. You need to constantly keep battling away to stop your competitors stealing your traffic or to stop your traffic from diverting into other websites. But by building relationships you avoid all this.

Relationship marketing, of course, is nothing new. But when you focus your web efforts on traffic, you are relegating relationships to a lower level. Your traffic will become quality, money-making traffic when you concentrate on building relationships. And if you think that’s a daft idea, take a look at what the likes of Dell and Starbucks do to build relationships, rather than traffic. It works for them.Oh, and it gets them traffic too. In other words these successful businesses get website traffic by focusing on relationships first and traffic second. If your concerns for your website are all about traffic, then try changing your stance. Start by focusing on the relationships and the traffic will follow. But by then you won’t be calling these people “traffic”, you’ll be thinking of them entirely differently – customers, readers, people, community, call them what you will, but they’ll no longer be “numbers” to you and that means you will treat them entirely differently.

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