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All Links Are Not Created Equal

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When we think about getting links, typically the concept is quantity over quality. Granted, we often look at things like PageRank to see if the potential link has value in the eyes of Google. But we often don't look at the inherent value that a potential link might have.

Something I've been looking at closely recently is how many page views a referring link has given me. I've found some surprising results doing this.

For example, while Google is still my number one generator of traffic, it definitely isn't the top generator of traffic that spends a considerable amount of time on my site. Discussion forums and blogs actually are best at generating traffic that sticks around. Let's look at some examples.

Source Visits 40 37 29 16 7 7 7 6 5 5

The above grid shows some traffic that I received for a site. The numbers are organized by most visits to least visits.

Clearly, the winner from this perspective is Google, which gave me more traffic than any other site over this time period. But let's look at that same data from a different perspective.

Source Pages/Visit 9.69 8.89 2.80 2.00 1.57 1.33 1.29 1.21 1.00 1.00

When organizing the data by pages per visit, Google is way down in the middle of the pack. By far, the top two sites that win this challenge are a blog and a discussion forum. Those same two sites also give me significantly greater average time on site numbers.

Let's look at another site. Here's the referring site data in standard form.

Source Visits 86 53 38 31 30 28 15 14 12

This one is interesting because Twitter is the number one traffic generator, rather than Google. Now lets spin the data around and look at it from a pages per visit ratio.

Source Pages/Visit 4.80 4.75 4.29 4.00 3.75 3.67 3.29 2.77 2.28

This data isn't as extremely different as in the previous example. But we can see that the top site that generates the highest pages to visit ratio is a blog.

But let's look at this one more way, from a bounce rate perspective.

Source Bounce Rate 0.00% 0.00% 8.33% 9.43% 16.13% 21.05% 21.43% 46.67% 50.00%

Bounce rate is a guideline that gives you a feeling for people who don't stay on your site. The top three sites that have the lowest bounce rate are all social media sites.

These two sites are small samplings. I have access to sites that generate significant amounts of traffic. I'm not able to show the data here, but I'm seeing similar results with them.

You should look at your statistics this way. You might find some surprising results.

This is exciting because I feel like I'm able to have a direct impact on how much traffic I get from blogs, forums, and social media sites. As far as search engines are concerned, you simply have to try to optimize your site for particular phrases and then basically hope for the best.

But if you want more traffic from discussion forums, for example, then you need to spend more time participating in the discussions.

My clients often say that they don't need a ton of traffic, they just need the right traffic. By looking at the sites that give you visitors with high page view ratios and low bounce rates, you may be able to better focus on the sites that give you more of that "right traffic."

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