WorkBoxers writes a great post comparing Search Engine Traffic to Daily Visitors, Which Is Better? I agree with Scrivs again on this one – its a ‘both’ thing – both types of readers have their value to your blog. You can successfully target either one exclusively or even both depending upon what the goal of your site is.
Targeting Search Engine Readers – For example when we ran the Olympics blog last year we were not really too interested in loyal daily readers (apart from the two weeks of the game themselves) – we did have a few of them but the vast majority of the 2 million readers we got that month came in via Google. Whilst the loyal readers were great and added something special to the site they were in the minority and not our main focus. As Scrivs say its the SE readers that most believe click on ads more than loyal readers so this group of readers can be quite rewarding.
Targeting Daily Readers – However on the other hand ProBlogger is a different kettle of fish – I love my readership here and am working my butt off to make them feel at home. The purpose of this blog is not heaps of one off search engine traffic because I want to journey with people, learn from them, teach them, grow with them and hopefully built mutually beneficial relationships with them. The SE traffic is nice but its secondary to my primary focus of loyal readers. If one day I do write an e-book (thanks for all the encouragement to do so) its the loyal reader who is more likely to buy it than the SE reader, the same is true for consulting work – so loyal readers can be profitable too.
Targeting Both – Other blogs that I run like Digital Photography Blog are more a combination of both – the large amount of SE traffic is great – it is responsible for most of the income I earn there – however its the smaller (growing) group of loyal daily readers that provide the life for the blog. They link to it from their sites, they contribute news, comments and even write a few articles for it. They don’t directly earn me big dollars as they are pretty blind to the ads but they help to create a site that attracts the SE traffic.
Another Category – Link Followers – As an aside I’d add a third type of reader to Scrivs two categories – its a slightly different group of readers that have their own distinct characteristics – they are the readers that come to your site via links from other sites. I guess I’m talking not only about those one off referals from fellow blogs but particularly those that come en-mass from large sites like Slashdot. I’ve written on this topic before but let me recap quickly on this type of traffic.
Links and the ensuing traffic from sites like Slashdot can be quite a rush, last night they sent me 40,000 visitors in a few hours – however its worth keeping in mind that this kind of traffic doesn’t click on ads in as great a numbers as SE traffic. it has also been known to crash servers and cause sites to slow down heaps (so beware its a ride not for the feint hearted).
This type of traffic is not so great for clicking on ads (although even at lower CTR the weight of numbers makes it lucrative) but it is great for a number of other reasons. Firstly the initial link from a site like Slashdot is quite powerful (they have a page rank of 9). Secondly there is usually a second wave of link ups after such a deluge of traffic – a small percentage of those numbers have their own blogs and sites and will link up to your post also which again helps with your SEO. Lastly a small number of these readers will stick around and become loyal readers of your site if you’re smart and work hard at hooking them in.
Interested in your opinions and experiences with different types of traffic.
Update: Michael also picks up Scriv’s post and writes his own at Making Money from Content Sites.