The Hidden Cost of Your “Free” Traffic

A while back I watched a speaker pitch his wares from the stage.  As the time on his presentation began to run out, he began really laying it on thick.  With his final power point slides he listed everything his customer would receive with purchase, along with what each of those items might be worth.  The “total value?”  Over one hundred thousand dollars!  Then the prices were slashed to show that if you bought right now, you could save around a hundred grand on all his stuff.  To really turn up the pressure, he displayed a live, count-down timer to show that this “deal” would expire in 10 minutes.  It was quite the entertaining show.  You won’t be surprised by the fact that the great deal really wasn’t all that great.  What he made out to be a huge savings still amounted to something that was not a good deal, even with the discount.  Sometimes a deal really isn’t a deal at all.  Sometimes free isn’t really free at all.  Let’s take a look at the hidden cost of “free” traffic to your website.

The hidden cost of “free” traffic to your website.

The hidden cost of “free” traffic to your website.

Types of Traffic

Traffic volume is measured in the number of visits that come to your website.  There are two main kinds of traffic that come to your website – free and paid.

Free traffic is the visits your website receives when people come to your website from the free listings in the search engines as well as from bookmarks, an email from a friend, tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts and comments, from links from other websites, etc.

Paid traffic is the visits your website receives when people comes to your website from search engine advertising like Google AdWords, other pay per click (PPC) advertising, Facebook advertising, banner ads, etc.

Opportunity cost of free traffic

The old adage, “If you build it they will come” doesn’t apply to websites.  In order for people to visit your website, you’ve got to have some sort of publicity effort going to get the word out about your website.  It is possible to get a lot of free traffic to your website, but this usually doesn’t happen overnight.

Opportunity cost isn’t a nice neat dollar amount.  The opportunity cost of free traffic is whatever you’re missing out on by not bringing in paid traffic.  What are you missing out on by not advertising?  Advertising bills?  More customers?  You’re in the best position to know what your opportunity cost is and if it’s really worth it.

Time cost

Free traffic is great, but in all likelihood, if your website gets a decent amount of traffic, it isn’t really free.  You see getting traffic to your website requires an investment in one form or another.  Often that investment takes the form of time.

Time spent optimizing your web site with the right keywords (SEO) so that you’re bringing in traffic from the search engines for free.  SEO is a time consuming activity that works best when it is only one of several ways that you’re trying to drive traffic to your website.

Time spent promoting your website with social media, through blogging, article marketing, creating info graphics or other forms of link-bait are all helpful.  All these things can bring in substantial amounts of traffic, but they take time to implement.  Once implemented it takes time for them to pay off.

Sometimes you have more time than money, this is often true of those that are just starting out online.  In that case, focusing on free traffic, while time consuming, may be the best choice in that situation.  As soon as you’re able to do so, invest in bringing in paid traffic to your web site profitably.

The best Internet marketing strategy involves driving traffic to your website from a multitude of different sources.  You can and should be working to bring both free and paid traffic to your website.  Diversity of sources of traffic is a very important element to any internet marketing strategy that will be effective over the long term.

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