Imagine two websites. The first gets thousands of hits per day through advertising. The webmaster has invested the majority of their budget in ads and spent it on little else.
The second gets far fewer visitors. The owner of that site has spent a bit of money on ads, but only where they feel it makes sense. Otherwise, they primarily focus on the organic side of things – building relationships on social media, providing valuable content to their users, and optimizing their pages for search.
Which of the two sites do you think will be more successful?
If you answered anything other than the second one, you haven’t been paying attention. I’m not trying to disparage tactics like PPC, Adsense, or affiliate marketing. Advertising has its place in the digital marketing world. I expect it always will.
What I want to caution against is taking too much of an all-or-nothing approach. Throwing ads out onto any network that will take your money. Hurling money at your marketing campaign without a care as to who you reach. Believing the only thing that matters – the only measure of success – is that your website reaches as many eyes as possible.
A decade ago, traffic and backlinks were the only things that mattered on the SERP. These days, though? I’d argue they’re hardly relevant.
Higher traffic is a measure of success and nothing more. And taken without any context – without metrics like conversion rate, bounce rate, browsing habits, and so on – it’s ultimately useless. All it tells you is that your site is receiving visits.
It doesn’t tell you from whom. It doesn’t tell you what they did. It doesn’t even tell you if those visitors were human.
There’s this nasty little thing that certain unscrupulous ad networks have started doing in order to generate more revenue. They generate fake impressions by having robots view the ads you paid them to place. It would not be an exaggeration to call this an epidemic — and one with no real end in sight.
“There are armies of bots viewing and clicking on ads, creating huge volumes of fake traffic that result in large sums of advertising dollars for fraudsters and less-than-diligent publishers,” writes Asaf Greiner, Founder and CEO of Protected Media. “Bots are growing in number because they are humanlike in that they can successfully stay under the radar. They fake movements within a game (e.g., opening an app, clicking and moving around a card in Solitaire) to meet a specific KPI that results in charges to an advertiser…They can also tamper with viewability, time in view and engagement rates to make their fake clicks and views appear as if they were committed by real people.”
In other words, if all you do is pay ad networks for placements without practicing anything resembling due diligence, you’re wasting money. If all you do to bring in more visitors to your website is purchase a few ads, you’re wasting time. If all you care about is generating higher traffic on your site, you might as well not try at all.
Paid traffic is valuable if leveraged effectively. If you work exclusively with ad networks that target your ads intelligently, and combine paid marketing with more organic tactics, it’s a great way to bring in more prospects. But paying for traffic should not be your only strategy.