Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of generating traffic for websites. A lot of this learning happened because I have some great friends on Twitter, some awesome friends in the wiki community, and met people at two Chicago area barcamps. They’ve given me advice directly, and linked to blogs and sites that give advice. This advice has been one of the major reasons that Fan History has changed the way that we do some of our promotions.
When you’re generating traffic for a fansite, you should have three goals:
When you’re link building, you want to spend more time on links which will bring in a higher quality visit. Pure visitors are great but they aren’t the most useful metric around. Would you rather get 10,000 visitors who spend 10 seconds on your site and view one page? Or 1,000 visitors who spend 10 minutes on your site and visit 20 pages? The second one is the type of visit that builds value for your fansite. It means people are more likely to come back, more likely to register, more likely to contribute to your site, and more likely to refer people to your site.
Ever heard of digg? A lot of fandom people I know aren’t that familiar with it but it is a hugely popular site. If you can get your site on the front page of digg, you can probably get in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 40,000 unique visitors. Ever heard of StumbleUpon? More of my fandom friends have. StumbleUpon, if your site is stumbled right, can get you a few hundred visits a day. A lot of fansites would kill for that. (If the increased traffic didn’t kill their sites.) Those stats make it seem like it would be a no brainer: use both to try to increase your traffic! Lots of visitors!
Another way to generate traffic is by wanking. Make fandom_wank or sf_drama and you can probably see another 1,000 to 3,000 visitors. If you’re linked through metafandom for being controversial, you can expect between 500 and 2,000 visitors depending on how many posts you’re linked on, how controversial you are and what day of the week it is. But like digg and Stumbleupon, these are cheap visits. Most of the visitors you get through wanking are wank navel gazers. They come in, view one page, spend between 10 seconds to 1 minute on your site, then go. They generally don’t repeat. In fact, because of the tie-ins to wank, they are less likely to be repeat visitors than if you had been linked through Digg. This is because your reputation ends up getting smacked around and you become known as a wanker. And once the wank winds down, your traffic levels off to prewank levels. The high in increased visitors doesn’t hold. You’ll get a massive drop off. So using wank to generate traffic, unless you’re specifically running a wank-type site like fandom_wank or EncyclopediaDramatica, isn’t a good idea. It doesn’t help build value by increasing the visits to your site, increasing time spend on the site, or increasing the number of page views per visit. (It is why Fan History mods don’t intentionally go around wanking; it doesn’t help our more important and valuable metrics. Quality over quantity of visits. And when we have wanked, our traffic tends to fall off a cliff about two days after the wank dies down. We’ve known this for over a year now when we first got the numbers to demonstrate it.)
Want some real numbers for that? Fan History’s numbers:
Average digg visitor to Fan History views 1.76 pages and spends 35 seconds on the site. Stumblers view an average 2.27 pages per visit and spend 1 minute 25 seconds on the site. It is harder to separate the wank traffic but the metrics are pretty similar because wank happens all over. But we were mentioned on ranty-rie‘s LiveJournal recently. The average visitor viewed one page, spent less than 10 seconds on the site and didn’t come back.
If you’re trying to build valuable traffic, what are valuable ways to link build to get visitors who come back, spend time on your site and view multiple pages? Personal e-mail. We have a couple of people on hotmail that we’ve e-mailed who ended up spending over an hour on the site and viewed more than 20 pages in their visit. On gmail? The average visitor views 21.77 pages and spends 21 minutes on the site. Positive mentions with attached discussion. Sidewinder blogs about Fan History on her LiveJournal pretty regularly. Our referrers through her? They view 21.5 pages and spend 11 minutes and 52 seconds per visit on average. (And most of them come back and view the site again.) Another good way to get traffic is to link to sites where the sites are small enough to watch and view every referrer. Fan History does that and people who come in with a referrer of a stat counter, they spend nearly 27 minutes on the site and view an average of 20 pages in their visit. Plugs on message boards also work really well if the message is about the site and the comment invites other comments or discussion about the site. We got mentioned on fannation.shades-of-moonlight.com and the average visitor spent 7 minutes on the site and viewed 13 pages.
What does that mean? You want to build high quality links where you invite people to participate and be involved. You want a link where the discussion, overall, will have a positive tone. Doing that increases the time spent on the site, increases the number of pages viewed per visit and increases the amount of times a visitor visits your site.
Don’t go for a cheap route of wanking or using services like digg. They don’t help your increase the value in your metrics.