Almost every new site I create gets no traffic. That is frustrating, disappointing, and not good business, and I am not sure exactly what to do about it. In the olden days, it used to be if you built a good site, people would find it. Google would send it lots of traffic, other sites would link to it; it was one big traffic party. I never advertised, I never did link trades, I did hardly any SEO, and no social promotion.
Things have changed and I am lost in a sea littered with my own dead sites. I have tried using Facebook and Twitter, but for me that has never resulted in extra visitors (yes, yes, I know everybody else in the world seems to just magically click the share button and the world comes running to their door). I have tried advertising (like on Adsense), but I never once have made more money than I spent. I have tried buying links on sites, but Google now frowns on that plus I am not sure that was ever worth it anyhow. I have paid people do white hat SEO (Google likes this), black hat SEO (Google does not like this), but none of it worked.
But, the vast majority of the time my sites live in cyber wasteland, dying a slow death like a controversial movie that will never be seen, a great painting hidden in an attic, or a moving poem kept locked in a diary but never shared. My sites want to break free. They want to be seen and heard. They yearn to be liked, to be commented on, to be shared. Yet day after day I sit idly by and do nothing. I am the problem, and I am the solution.
So, last week I got off my ass to do something about it. I designed what I call “The Great Traffic Experiment of 2015”. The subject of my experiment is my recently launched site at GameReviews.com, which so far just gets around 20 visitors per day. I have done nothing to promote it. My hypothesis is that if I buy traffic for the site, Google will somehow see lots of people are going to it (Google knows all, sees all), and rank it higher. I also thought maybe some of the people going to the site would keep coming back even after I stopped advertising. To keep things as scientific as possible, I determined that the best course of action would be to buy traffic from one source at a time, and after the traffic buy from each source was completed, I would see if was getting more traffic than before I started advertising. That way I could determine how good that source of traffic was. If I did not get any repeat traffic from it, it was not worth buying.
That all sounds good, but I am an impatient type of guy, so I threw that protocol out the window, typed “cheap traffic” into Google, and within minutes bought visitors from 5 different sources of cheap traffic all at once:
Some of the traffic was from video game sites, but most was not. Some was in the form of popunders, some was 404 error page redirect traffic, and the rest came from unknown sources. Most was from the USA though. The cost was ranged from $1 – $10 per 1000 visitors, but mostly around $1 for 1000 visitors (this experiment is all about cheap, low quality traffic).
My Google Analytics reports for GameReviews.com shows useful stats for each traffic source, such as how many pages each visitor went to (if they only go to the main page of the site and not any subpages, they probably are not that interested), how long they stayed on the site (if they leave the site quickly, they are not too interested), and the bounce rate (how many people left the site right away without really looking at it at all). This let me compare to see which sources gave me the best traffic. The only problem is that many of these cheap traffic sources send the traffic in frames or other ways that could distort the stats. For example, when my site opens as a popunder ad, I assume that makes it look like the user stayed on the site a long time but it may just be they never just bothered to close the popunder window and never even looked at my site.
One result is that as I expected, the cheap traffic is not nearly as valuable as people who go to my site directly (like by typing GameReviews.com into their browser or from searching in Google). Those high quality users look at around 2.2 pages each and stay on the site for 2.5 minutes. The cheap traffic usually stayed on the site less than 10 seconds and visited less than 1.3 pages per session. The video game site traffic from Gamesbannernet.com did better than all the other cheap traffic but cost 5-10 times more, so I am not sure of that was worth it or not.
All that really matters though is how much traffic I keep getting after all the traffic is done. Overall I spent around $100 for approximately 25,000 visitors, and it did not seem to lead to any significant repeat traffic. I still just get the 20 visitors a day, like I was before. But, it has only been a few days since I stopped buying traffic. The benefits can’t just be measured in repeat traffic though. There may be webmasters who came to my sites and will then link to me because they like my site. And, next time Google updates its algorithm it might rank me higher from all of this. I won’t know any of that for a few months, but if anything exciting happens, I will post an update about it on my blog.
UPDATE – 02/24/15: All of the cheap traffic I purchased 6 weeks ago did not result in any lasting traffic. As soon as my ads stopped, the traffic stopped, and it did not help me at all with the search engines.