If you take the retail marketing adage "location, location, location," and translate it to digital, the result would be visit rate, or traffic. In the physical world, it's possible to pay premium rent to get your product in front of lots of people, but on the web, garnering traffic is a bit more nuanced. The medium requires strategies that are focused on targeted audiences rather than the general public, not because products are narrow, but because methods of measuring efficacy enable marketers to see more success this way.
Visit rate is likely the oldest metric on the Internet, and continues to be highly relevant for every kind of businesses. The most widely used statistic is visits per day, although unique visitors per day is usually seen as more actionable. This rate is often compared month-to-month or year-over-year and is often paired with frequency of visits, return visits or daily return visits.
"Visit rate is always the 'basic' indicator for everything," says Susan McPherson, SVP of CSR at Fenton. "It sets the stage for the deeper, more substantive engagement that is required."
See also: Marketers, Do You Really Know Your Customers?
Because visit rate is a basic temperature-taker for your business' web presence, you need to keep track of visit rate to determine what's working and what's not. Tying traffic spikes and dips to specific events (perhaps a mention on a local TV show, a flash sale or a social media faux pas) help gauge interest in your brand, and can influence your future marketing efforts.
The methods for logging traffic will vary based on your type of business and how you generate revenue, but we've outlined some basic strategies below.
Daily and monthly traffic, counted as unique visitors or total visits, is easily accessible in any analytics software. From there, you can dig deeper by looking at audience, sources and entrance and exit pages.
If your product can only be shipped to certain regions, it's helpful to ensure that your traffic is indeed coming from that area — if significant traffic comes from elsewhere, you might consider making business changes. Your sources of traffic will indicate what social channels, search terms or other referrals to optimize. Entrance and exit pages can help you determine if the layout of your website is doing its job — are people having to navigate to many pages before they find what they're looking for? Are they bouncing at a high rate? You may want to add additional paths to a certain page on your site if it proves to be popular (or is especially timely, like a holiday special).
While traffic is an important base metric, it must be built upon — organic traffic alone can't sustain your business. You need conversion, too.
"Visit rate is one of the primary indicators that a brand is reaching users online," Jason Squardo, executive vice president of optimization at ZOG Digital, "but it is incorrect to assume it will automatically lead to increased leads and sales."
Bucketing traffic by source, demographic and more can help you pinpoint what portion of your traffic is indeed providing value so you can optimize these channels and drive even more value.
How you view traffic depends on your business. Media businesses are a prime example of all traffic being equal — traffic, more or less, equals dollars. Each page view is essentially a piece of inventory.
For an ecommerce business, traffic is critical for different reasons — more traffic means a greater potential for conversion.
"This is the equivalent to the old retail adage 'location, location, location'; the more people you have in the store, the more sales you can have," says Jon Gibs, VP of analytics at Huge.
But visits to an ecommerce site that do not result in a purchase aren't to be ignored completely. Perhaps the consumer came to check your hours, find a location or compare prices. If they had a good experience, they might come back to buy at some point in the future (or maybe they bought in your brick-and-mortar store).
If you're looking to drive return traffic, content marketing is one tactic. "Engaging, fresh and compelling content posted on a regular basis" is essential for driving return visits and developing brand ambassadors, says marketer Rob Longert. The more this content adds value, the more users will come to your site to consume ... and they just might convert while they're there.
Whatever traffic-related data is most relevant to your business is the traffic to optimize — and most businesses will pick one type of traffic to focus on. It might be referrals from Facebook, or traffic to a "How It Works" page that indicates serious user interest.
"Visits to a website are great, but not all are created equal. It’s important to target those who are more likely to buy," says Squardo, explaining that a marketer's goal is to correlate a traffic metric with conversions.
For a media business and an ecommerce business alike, the cost of acquisition will be higher than the cost of bringing back repeat visitors, since there's no previously demonstrated interest in the company.
"Levels of return visitation can be more important than the actual number of raw visitors," says Gibs. "If you assume there is a cost to acquire any given customer, having a high level of return visitation allows you to amortize your acquisition cost across multiple visits, or more specifically, the revenue that any given user drives."
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