A Visit Is Not A Visit Is Not A Visit

from the rethinking-the-power-of-traffic dept

It seems that some folks are beginning to explore a rather important topic: the value of certain types of links. In the past, people generally assumed that all web traffic was effectively equal, and no matter how you got it, it didn’t much matter. But it’s clear that’s not really true. For example, some people note that traffic from a site such as Digg is often not very “useful” traffic, because people come, see the one page, do nothing else, and never come back (this isn’t entirely true in our experience, but it’s mostly true). And, of course, there are newspapers who claim the same thing is true about Google News — even to the point that some are suggesting that, even if it brings in less traffic, newspapers should block Google from scraping them so that visitors have to find those news sites via other means.

Along those lines, Fred Wilson has started exploring the value of links from different places, with a focus on “passed” or “earned” links — basically links that someone “passed on” rather than were found via a search engine. The hypothesis was that such “passed links” were more valuable, and from a conceptual level it makes some amount of sense. If someone you know or trust sends you to a link, you’re more likely to click and pay attention to that link. Fred does some investigating of this, with a limited amount of data, and isn’t quite sure it’s true (from what he’s seen), though he admits that the data is limited.

I think this is definitely an important subject for websites to investigate — but I find the initial suggestion (blocking one source because the “value” of those visitors is low) to be quite silly and backwards. That’s deciding that because a certain type of user isn’t worth that much, you should ignore them all together. I would think the smarter means would be to simply treat those visitors differently, and focus on recognizing where they come from, and then looking to provide value based on that fact. You won’t capture everyone, but you can certainly do a better job of funneling people in a certain direction based on where they’re coming from and what they’re likely looking for based on that information. It’s not something that we do here, but it’s about to be added to the “things to do” queue.

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Comments on “A Visit Is Not A Visit Is Not A Visit”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Personally, I don’t look at anything unless it comes from various aggregation sites. I’m not interested in how Britney Spears is doing but it’s headline news on most big news sites. On the other hand, when I’m bored, I may go read how stupid celebrities can be and read an article here and there about them. Google, Slash and Digg are my primary sources, so if I got blocked by folks, I’d simply never read the stories (or see the adds, a key item I’m sure).

Blocking me because I watch Googles “entertainment” news would be suicide. I only look at it once a week at most, but mostly I look because I’ve run out of tech things to read.

It would be stupid to block folks from ANY source as they may like condensed information once in a while…

Paul G (profile) says:

It's a question of numbers

I may not run news related sites but to me the effect is similarly relevant.

I run a couple of e-commerce websites. About 60% of traffic is from search results. On average 40% are ‘bounce’ traffic which are people who look at the result but nothing else. The rest look at a varying amount of pages and an even smaller number end up making a purchase.

The end result is a LOT of useless traffic and bandwidth. However, without that traffic sales would be lower so I an glad to accept it. I welcome the people as even though they may not make an immediate purchase they MIGHT come back another day.

It may be misguided but I look on it with the old saying in mind “Chuck enough sh*t at the wall and eventually enough will stick”. Bandwidth is a small percentage of cost and is WELL worth the return.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

I found Techdirt via Google News

I started reading Google News during the day at work, that’s how I found TechDirt. It started with just a bounce, I read one article and went back to Google. After a few weeks I found that I was looking for TechDirt and eventually just put it on my iGoogle page.

I guess that means that you should make sure to make your deep pages look just as good as your main page. That way people will want to look at your stuff.

Fungo Knubb says:


I’ve re-read this article several times, and cannot fathom why any commercial web site administrator would want to limit traffic to their web site based upon where it came from. I administer several commercial web sites, and those sites get sales from virtually every source imaginable. Yes, some sources yield more sales than others, but they all produce sales. Additionally, I’ve learned that gaining exposure to as wide an audience as possible is generally a very good thing, no matter where they came from. Most all visitors have money in their pocket, and that’s the name of the game in web commerce.

This reminds me of a grocery store manager (true story) that quit selling a particular product because it sold so well that he was mostly out of stock most of the time. His solution was to not carry the product because it made his customers angry when they came into the store to purchase it and found that it was out of stock. He said he had much less complaints if he did that. My only thought was that he was obviously a product of our new “dumbed down” public school system. He never considered ordering more of the product and giving it more shelf space, and then raising the price a bit based upon demand. Apparently, “profit” was a dirty word in his vocabulary. I stopped purchasing anything from his store, and noticed that about a year and a half later that he had gone out of business. I suspect that he’s still sitting around wondering what happened. Heh.

Paul Reinheimer (profile) says:

Re: Huh?

I don’t think you’re giving the manager enough credit. I worked at a store where we sold a popular skin care product. The manufactuer would give us consistent (but low) stock for a while, then run out. We could order more, but it wouldn’t matter, they would ignore the larger number and just send a few units.

We could have raised the price, but the manufacturer also sold direct. A raise large enough to moderate demand would likely have resulted in all the customers ordering direct. Now we’re just wasting shelf space.

We gave up, and discontinued offering the product. We gave customers who came in the phone number for the manufactuer so they could order directly.

Jim Gaudet (profile) says:

Agree, sort of

I don’t think they should block the traffic, I mean traffic is traffic, and they have to leave the site somehow…Another link somewhere, hopefully an ad.

This isn’t a new system though. You want a lot of links for Google to like you and you want “word of mouth” advertising (friends giving out your links) to drive your business.

My 2c

Anonymous Coward says:

“But it’s clear that’s not really true. For example, some people note that traffic from a site such as Digg is often not very “useful” traffic, because people come, see the one page, do nothing else….”

That’s what happens with most (all?) aggregation sites this drives a lot of traffic to the site and it would be hard to find a more useful kind of traffic.
Historically the Masnicks have understood that but for this story it’s deemed not very useful ? !!!!

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Historically the Masnicks have understood that but for this story it’s deemed not very useful ? !!!!

The scare quotes were used to indicate this is an argument made by others. It’s a dumb argument and one we don’t agree with.

I’m sorry if that was too subtle for you, but since you like to come here and insult me at least once a day, I would have thought you would have recognized that.

Sorry that it went over your head. I’ll try to dumb things down for you to make insulting me easier in the future.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think the way a site monetizes itself effects the value of it’s readership. On his podcast, Cheapy D, who runs the website CheapAssGamer.com, once made a comment that links from gaming news blogs like Kotaku or Joystiq were less valuable than a link from the webcomic Penny Arcade even though the other websites would give them more hits. Penny Arcade’s readership really trust their opinions so when they say something is good people are more likely to use something that they recommend.

I think a big reason for this trust is because Penny Arcade is very selective with the things they allow to be advertised on their site. They only allow for ads of products that they themselves support to be on their site. So even if a user was to click on a paid for banner they would likely find something that they could be interested in. That makes the non paid for links more valuable since it keeps the entire website trustworthy.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I would think the smarter means would be to simply treat those visitors differently, and focus on recognizing where they come from, and then looking to provide value based on that fact.”

So if the news media (which is owned by somewhat radical Republicans, Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch) decided that everyone is (should be) radical Republicans, and based what they access on that presumption, that’s okay?

Get real.

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