This might be my weirdest headline yet. But it’s all I can think of to explain it.
From old folk tales to new traffic insights. Don’t ever say I don’t get creative for you. 😉
You see, I was going for a walk when this thought came to me. I was trying to figure out how I can explain the rules of traffic to people. Because many online entrepreneurs don’t really understand traffic, except in a very simple binary, like organic and paid, or high-quality and low-quality.
Let’s Try Something Different
Do you know the story of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf?
Here’s a really corny metal song version of the story, just for fun:
Okay, all caught up? Keep the basics of that story in your mind. Three pigs, wolf, different houses.
You may have heard the old saying that when you get something done for you, that service can be up to 2 of 3 things:
- High Quality
If you pick something high quality and fast, that service is likely not going to be cheap. If it’s cheap and high quality, it’s probably not going to be fast, etc.
Well, I have a similar three things for picking a traffic strategy:
- Cheap/Free: self explanatory. Traffic can be expensive, so cheap or free tactics are always in vogue.
- Fast: Does it get you traffic within a time frame of a few days or less?
- Consistent: Will this give you traffic and then keep giving it for months or years?
I replaced the high quality parameter with consistent, because I will never waste my time with anything but high quality traffic, and hopefully we are on the same page with that. 😉 Therefore, it is not a factor in deciding what traffic tactics to use. If it doesn’t give the best quality traffic, potential buyers, it’s automatically out.
You probably see where this is going.
Just like with the earlier dynamic, with these traffic tactic aspects, unless you’re both a genius on the cutting edge and incredibly lucky, you’ll always have to pick no more than 2.
Something cheap and consistent will not be fast; it will not get you traffic immediately.
Something fast and cheap will usually not deliver consistent traffic. It’ll give you a sudden spike with no follow-through.
Something fast and consistent will not be cheap. It’ll cost you, one way or another.
Mathematically, then, we have three different types of traffic, from the three potential combinations of a 3c2 combination equation. If you’re not into math, just know these three tactic types, which I have given easier-to-remember names.
Networking (Cheap + Fast)
If you want traffic that’s cheap and fast, the best way is to borrow it from another person. For example, guest blog posts linking back to your site, posted to another person’s blog, will get you a splash of visitors from the blog you posted to. Another example is affiliate deals. Someone promises to blast your product to their audience, and you promise a share of the revenue from every sale that comes from their promo.
Networking with other blogs, influencers, or whoever is awesome, because when they blast your content to their audience, that audience checks it out all at once and you get a good spike in traffic. However, if there’s no ongoing partnership (which is hard to keep up without irritating each other’s audiences) that cheap and fast traffic spike will return to relative normalcy.
Sure, the traffic can lead to new subscribers, customers, etc. In other words, more consistent organic traffic for you. But you will have to put yourself out there, or hire someone to do it for you, which is tricky.
You have to find people who are both willing to promote you, able to do so, and are not a pain in the neck to negotiate with. Easier said than done, but fantastic if you get lucky.
Pros: Great for launches, lets you profit off the growth of other people’s audiences, can be scaled up fairly easily (just set up more promotions with more of your networking buddies!)
Cons: Not so great for ongoing traffic (but still doable), you are not in full control of the performance numbers, you may have to give up a share of your revenue.
Link Building (Cheap + Consistent)
This is the dirt-simple free promotion stuff, but boy does it work. Posting to social media accounts, participating in forums, and most of all, creating SEO-rich, valuable content to attract organic visitors. You’ll be hard pressed to make this strategy work quickly. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but most people who make it work fast already had other things on their side, like a LOT of experience with getting new businesses up off the ground.
If that’s not you, don’t worry about it. Link building is very useful, and worth putting in your daily practice, like a karate student learning to punch through cinder-blocks. You won’t be able to do it in a week, but the progress is slowly but surely building into something that will never go away.
Pros: Passive and constant, you can be confident it’s always going to keep coming in more or less forever, scales slowly but reliably with time.
Cons: Won’t see much change in the first few weeks, over-performing numbers are rare.
Paid Advertising (Fast + Consistent)
Unless you’re extremely savvy with online paid advertising, and get lucky, paid ads are not going to be cheap, at least compared to other traffic methods. This isn’t because the platforms themselves for online advertising are expensive to use. They don’t have to be. But it does cost money to make an ad work for cheap, because it requires testing.
Take PPC ads, for example. You have to let them run, let them spend some money, and test them to see what’s working, what isn’t, and what changes to make.
You can’t get back the money you spend figuring this stuff out, so at the end of the day, even if you get a really effective ad with low cost compared to the traffic it’s delivering, you will likely spend a fair bit to get to that point.
But when you do, you will have a fast and consistent source of traffic, as long as you’re willing to keep the ad on and spend money.
The other key element of paid advertising is that it works better and better, the more developed your business is, and the more you have to sell.
If you’re a beginner with only one little product sold for $20, you’re going to be hard pressed to make paid ads work, even if you get down to really cheap clicks of like $25 cents. The numbers just aren’t there yet.
If, on the other hand, you sell a $20 product, immediately offer multiple upsells of $50 or more, AND collect emails in the process and sell people on dozens of other products and services at higher and higher value, AND you know what you’re doing and have decent conversion rates on all these things…
Well, then you can afford to bid really high to swarm your market and get clicks, even at a dollar or more.
P.S.: check out my favorite product for list-building if you’re having trouble with that. 😉
Russell Brunson puts it best: “Whichever marketer can afford to spend the most on advertising, that’s the business that will succeed.”
If you’re still early into this game, no problem. Paid ads aren’t for you, yet. Get to a point where you are confident that with every customer and lead you grab with a paid ad, you have a seriously high earnings potential.
Pros: the most direct and straightforward way to get customers, can scale up with time and effort, turns reasonably developed online businesses into six-figure behemoths.
Cons: hard to figure out on your own, costs money, slow going and borderline useless for pre-revenue businesses.
What Shiny Teeth You Have!
Yeah, I know, that’s the wrong story. But I needed to transition somehow!
As the big bad wolf trying to get a little pig, we have to consider which strategy is most worth the effort: Networking, Link Building, or Paid Advertising.
And that’s going to vary a lot depending on your niche and business. Whichever is the best fit, allocate most of your traffic generation resources there, and apply the others on an experimental basis.
You shouldn’t just pick one and ignore the others, but generally one will vibe the best with your business and with you as an online entrepreneur. For example, I’m a bit shy, and I get easily disappointed by temporary gains that don’t last, so I don’t do networking as much. Some of my businesses are still very new, so with those I don’t mess with paid ads just yet. I want to see how far I can go without them.
You are the Big Bad Wolf, and your situation is unique to mine.
Your goal is to get those piggies. But just know that once you get two (two advantages in a traffic strategy) the third will usually wise up and safely quarter himself in a brick house.
Instead of bashing your head against a brick wall to get that third pig (chasing after a perfect traffic strategy with no weaknesses), just look for whatever suits your style and current business the best.
Now then, I’m in the mood for eggs and bacon. Take it easy!