Should You Start Building Traffic Or Optimize For Conversions First?

If you have lots of traffic, but a low conversion rate, you won’t be able to monetize the people that are coming to your site. If you have a high conversion rate, but low traffic, you may not be able to make enough money to justify your efforts.

21 Feb, 2018FORBES.COM

Should You Start Building Traffic Or Optimize For Conversions First?

There are two major ingredients you need to have a successful online business, or online platform for your business: traffic and conversions. Traffic refers to the number of people visiting your website, and “conversions” refer to any action that traffic could take that would result in revenue (or get them one step closer to revenue), such as purchasing a product, filling out a contact form, or even watching a video.

You’ll need both if you want to be successful. If you have lots of traffic, but a low conversion rate, you won’t be able to monetize the people that are coming to your site. If you have a high conversion rate, but low traffic, you may not be able to make enough money to justify your efforts.

Over the long term, then, you’ll need to spend time and money optimizing both these areas. But what if you’re just starting out, or what if your budget is severely limited? Of these two dimensions, which should you optimize first?

The Case for Traffic

First, let’s take a look at the case for building traffic before optimizing your site for conversions:

  • Brand recognition. Conversions make traffic valuable, but your web visitors will still be valuable even if they aren’t fully converting. Every visitor who makes it to your site will have the chance to see your brand, read your content, and become more familiar with your company. The sooner you start building traffic, the sooner you’ll reap those recognition benefits, and the more trust you’ll earn in the market. Ultimately, that early influx of traffic could boost your conversion rates even higher.
  • Long-term strategies. The most successful and profitable traffic-building strategies are ones that take a long time to build; strategies like search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing depend on a slow, steady buildup of value and appreciation within a target audience. They start off slow, but have the power to grow exponentially, since the content and links you create will last semi-permanently, and you’ll retain the majority of your new recurring visitors. For this reason, it’s advantageous to start building momentum in these areas as early and as powerfully as possible; starting an SEO campaign just a month earlier will allow you to build to a late-stage campaign one month faster.
  • Testing value. Having a large volume of traffic to work with may also be advantageous for your conversion optimization strategy. While there are some best practices and helpful tips to follow when encouraging more conversions, the only way to tell if your strategy is working (and get direction on how to improve your results further) is to measure and analyze the data. Without a steady stream of visitors to test, you’ll be flying blind.

The Case for Conversions

But what about the possibility of optimizing for conversions before building traffic?

  • Minimal intensity. Conversion optimization will require some ongoing effort, but your first draft of efforts (so to speak) won’t take much time or money. If you study the psychology of landing pages, look at some examples of successful conversion optimization strategies, and get to know your target audience a little better, you should have no problem adjusting your current website to be more conducive to conversions. In total, this “first draft” effort could take you as little as a few hours, making it a minimal-intensity investment that you might as well knock out early.
  • Traffic maximization. Focusing on conversions first also instantly makes every visitor on your website more valuable. For example, let’s say you build traffic to 1,000 visitors a month, then start focusing on conversions. You go from a 0 percent conversion rate to a 3 percent conversion rate in 1 month, then you start seeing 30 conversions every month. If you had optimized for conversions first, you’d see a 3 percent rate of conversion for all the traffic you received leading up to (and including) that 1,000 visitor-per-month rate.
  • Reinvestment potential. Assuming your conversion strategy is successful early on, the extra revenue you’ll generate from all your new traffic will give you more money you can use to invest further—in the realms of both traffic and conversion. For this reason, if you’re low on cash, it might be advantageous to temporarily favor conversions over traffic.

The Case for Balance

There are obviously merits to both sides, and your business’s specific goals and resources will likely cause you to lean toward one over the other. However, if you fully invest in either side without investing at least slightly in the other, you aren’t going to see meaningful results.

No matter what, you’ll need to have some measure of balance in your strategy. If you’re unsure about which to favor, try to invest in both equally; as you grow, you’ll be able to see which area grows faster, and adjust your investments accordingly.

The Bottom Line

One of the most important things to remember here is that your online marketing strategy is a perpetual work in progress; your initial optimization efforts will help you get a leg up, but they aren’t going to perfect (or ruin) your campaign.

Building momentum by focusing more heavily on traffic or conversions could bring you some early advantages (depending on the nature of your company and your ultimate goals), but most businesses will succeed best by finding a balance between the two.

Author Info:
This article was first published by Jayson DeMers on Forbes


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