It’s old news that driving traffic is at the top of the priority list for eCommerce professionals. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving hundreds of thousands of visitors or laser-targeting only the most relevant traffic—if nobody’s visiting your site you’re not selling anything, at least not in that channel.
Similarly, strategies for driving traffic come as varied as the people executing them. There’s no one-size-fits-all. In deciding where to put your time and money it can help to look at the different types of traffic drivers and how they fit with your business strategy. I’m talking about short-term vs. long-term traffic drivers.
Driving Short-Term eCommerce Traffic
It’s easy to think that “short-term” traffic would be inferior to “long-term” traffic, but the term isn’t pejorative at all. Short-term traffic drivers have potential to drive large amounts of traffic, but are so called because they’re generally backed by an ad spend and the traffic can be expected to drop off when the spending stops. The advantages and disadvantages are clear: you can get lots of traffic quickly, but it goes as quickly as it comes.
These are some common short-term traffic drivers for eCommerce sites:
- Comparison shopping engines. Having your products listed (and listed well) in comparison shopping aggregators like Amazon Product Ads, Google Product Search, Bing Shopping, and TheFind can drive high-quality traffic.
- Affiliate networks. If you’re having trouble bringing in traffic, consider having other people do it for you. Using affiliate networks like Link Share, Share a Sale, and Commission Junction, you can have third parties promoting your products on their sites—and you pay a commission for sales that they generate. These networks are available to any seller and Amazon Webstore makes integration easy.
- Online Advertising. You knew it was coming, right? There may not be a faster way to drive traffic now than to advertise online. You’ve got all sorts of options at your fingertips:
- Display advertising – There’s no denying that the big ad networks can bring you visitors. You can spend a lifetime optimizing your campaigns, but people do it because it works.
- Search Engine Marketing (a.k.a SEM) – SEM is a special brand of advertising and requires you to dive deep into keywords and keyword phrases. With paid search, you get well-qualified traffic because you capture people’s attention as they’re actively searching online.
- Social media advertising – Ads on Facebook are a volume operation. They may not be the most impressive ad units, but the clicks are cheap enough to make it worth it. Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn have been improving their offerings as well.
Driving Long-Term eCommerce Traffic
Long-term traffic, on the other hand, is the traffic that comes on its own. It can be a slow grind to get these going, but they have the advantage of being free (generally) and driving more organic traffic.
Some popular long-term traffic drivers:
- Search Engine Optimization (a.k.a. SEO). This discussion really begins and ends with SEO. It can take a long time, be a painstaking effort, and require continual adaptation to changing algorithms, but it’s also some of the most reliable traffic you can get. Putting in the time almost always pays off.
- Email. Email can be a short-term driver if you’re blasting out to a lot of people, but careful curating and maintenance of an email list can make sure that your best customers are receiving relevant offers and coming back on a regular basis.
- Social media. Yep, this is where social media belongs. As businesses continue to flock to Facebook and Twitter, it has become extremely unlikely that customers will find you by chance (unless you’re doing something really compelling). Instead, social media is a way to build a base of fans and continually reach out to them over time… as long as you keep posting, you can keep them coming back.
Ultimately? Short-term traffic can be expensive, but it can also happen now. Long-term traffic is delayed gratification that requires building a based but then benefitting from it later. Many sites will need both, but the choice should be based on your business’s strategy, budget and customer. Do you do flash sales, or big events? You’ll need short-term traffic to support that. Do you opt for brand-building and consistent pricing? While short-term will help, long-term traffic is what will build your business.
Which type of traffic is a better fit for your business? Are you doing one or the other, or both?