We all know that “free” organic traffic isn’t really free. The traffic itself doesn’t cost you, but optimizing and marketing your site to get that “free” traffic does.
And while digital marketing services come in all shapes, sizes, and pricing structures, one structure you should always avoid is the pay-for-traffic model.
Why paying for traffic is appealing
Traffic is easily measured. If you know your baseline — such as traffic received over the past 12 months — you can easily calculate how much traffic growth you want over the next twelve months. Attach a dollar figure to the percentage or raw number increase and you have a payment model. If there is low or no increase in traffic, then there is little or no payment being made to the marketer.
This model gives the SEO free reign to go after both long- and short-tail keywords and keeps them focused on those that are likely to produce the most traffic.
More traffic often results in more sales. The marketer will do everything they can to bring more traffic to your site, giving you more opportunity to increase your revenue.
The problem paying for traffic
The problem with this model is that the focus is on the wrong thing. Yes, more traffic is good. You can’t succeed online without it. But targeted traffic is far more important.
There are plenty of ways to drive large amounts of unqualified traffic to a website. And most of them will have very little impact on your business growth. By focusing on traffic alone, the marketer has no incentive to go after the traffic that will deliver more sales. They just want the traffic counts to go up so they can get paid.
But even targeted traffic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Blogs and content marketing are great ways to bring new and interested visitors to your website. But few of these visitors are interested in making a purchase. They just come for the free information. That’s not to say they won’t come back later, but you need to know the difference in branding and marketing. You have to know when you’re paying for one versus the other.
Which brings us back to paying for traffic. If you are able to qualify the traffic as targeted traffic or are decidedly paying for branding initiatives, then paying for traffic can work. But unless you’re measuring those things specifically, you’re likely paying for one thing while getting another.