One of the main objectives of a content marketing strategy is to drive qualified traffic to your website. However, not all traffic is the same. What differentiates web traffic depends how you create content, how much it costs you to create, how you promote the content, and how much you paid to promote it.
It is easy to open up a web metric tool like Google Analytics and find out what channels traffic came in through, but that should only be your starting point. I consider those channels to be the baseline for your content marketing goals. Traffic that meets your baseline goals should help create strategies for driving incremental traffic beyond that baseline.
Below is a chart I use to think about, and measure, web traffic. I call it the Traffic Source Ladder. You essentially look at the chart from bottom-to-top. I will walk through how I use this chart below.
Baseline traffic is the web traffic that you should just get as the result of creating great content. When you start a content creation cycle (like a year, quarter, month, etc.), you should set some metric goals for how your content is going to generate traffic. The green shaded area of the chart above outlines five channels your content should get traffic from, and an example of the percent of total traffic from those sources. Starting at the bottom…
The content you create should be promoted on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and/or any other networks where your targeted persona hangs out. Out of all the traffic your content generates, roughly 10% should come from these social sites.
If you haven’t started building your email list, start today. If you have an email list in place, make sending emails out to that list on a consistent basis a priority. Traffic from this channel should be about 5% of your total.
As your content gets better and better over time and it gets delivered on a schedule, more traffic will come directly to your site from saved links and bookmarks. This should make up 30% of your total traffic.
Referral traffic comes from external sites that link to your content, contributors who are part of your Influencer Marketing program, etc. This traffic should make up about 15% of your total traffic.
Organic Search (40%)
If you have been creating quality content for a longer period of time, you could probably look at your web metrics today and see that organic is generating the majority of your traffic. There have been times I have seen as much as 55-60% of my total traffic coming from organic. I think a safe goal to shoot for is 40% of your total traffic should come from the organic search channel.
So that wraps up your baseline traffic sources. Your focus should first be to set and reach goals in the baseline channels first. When you achieve that, then I recommend moving to further content promotion to get what I call “Bonus Traffic”.
Bonus traffic is the incremental traffic you can get from select content that is proving to outperform the baseline. Starting from the bottom of the chart for Bonus Traffic…
SEM and Paid Media (Up to 5-15% More)
If a piece of content is exceeding baseline traffic expectations, you might want to put some fuel on the fire by dropping some money behind it for further reach. That is where setting up some Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or other paid media like Facebook Ads or YouTube pre-roll ads might be something to consider. If you do execute this tactic, try and shoot for a 5-15% increase in your baseline traffic.
Recirculation Promotion (Up to 25% More)
Next you might want to look for other content creators or platforms where your content might be able to reach a new audience. You might have other sites the content can be cross-promoted on, or you can reach out to 3rd party sites who might be willing to work out a deal. A good goal for this channel tactic is a 25% increase over your baseline traffic.
Homepage Promotion (Up to 25% More)
Website homepages are valuable pieces of real estate. That is because most homepages still get the majority of traffic over any other page on a website, and not all content gets featured on the homepage. However, if you have a piece of content that is picking up some steam, you might want to make the pitch for clearing some homepage real estate for an image, copy, and call-to-action to drive up to 25% more traffic to it.