Businesses are starting to recognize it’s not the volume of online traffic, but the quality that counts. Good traffic comprises relevant visitors who are likely to fulfill a desired action on your website, whether it’s to make a purchase, e-mail or call, subscribe to a newsletter or what have you. Poor traffic, even in extraordinary amounts, is a waste of bandwidth. No matter how impressive the numbers, the wrong crowd won’t bring you desired results.

It’s about time

While traffic amount and unique visitors are useful key performance indicators, businesses and Internet organizations alike are paying closer attention to the time visitors spend on websites. In fact, Nielsen/Net Ratings, a global leader in Internet media and market research, recently began putting less emphasis on page views in favor of total time spent on a site. The new approach is similar to how television audiences are estimated; it’s not if they flick through a channel, but rather if they stay tuned. There’s little doubt placing more weight on the time visitors spend on a site will more accurately reflect the depth of online experience. But how does a business attract relevant audiences -- the good traffic -- that will stick around and convert?

Content: quality over quantity

The single most influential factor over the quality of your online traffic is your web content. As a result, it’s essential to invest time and resources to get relevant, information-rich and up-to-date content on your site. But be aware, it’s not a numbers game. That’s the quick and easy route bottom feeding networks and spammers take, polluting the Web with millions of pages of virtual garbage in a bid to make a quick buck. You only have to dig as deep as mainstream Web forums to find posts soliciting articles for as little as $2 (U.S.) each. One post called for a writer willing to spit out 1,000 articles for $4,000 (U.S.). You do the math. There’s no expertise, research or new information; just the cutting and pasting of existing content from the Web. The posts’ authors openly refer to these practices as “schemes” and are then surprised how traffic in the thousands pull so few, if any, conversions. No quality, no value.

The contagious factor

Quality content is contagious. It makes a positive impression, builds trust and credibility, and fosters relationships. Once a visitor digests the information and deems it valuable, there’s a good chance he or she will bookmark your content, link to it or share it with social and professional circles. Others become engaged and the cycle continues. At the end of the day, you achieve what’s considered a “sticky site” -- your readers will keep coming back. And the more time visitors peruse your site, the greater the chance they’ll turn into customers.

Putting it to the test

To validate the quality versus quantity notion, Webcopyplus recently experimented with articles of varying information depth. Several vague ‘blurbs’ with limited insight and newsworthiness drew satisfactory traffic. However, we experienced a 90 per cent bounce rate, which is the percentage of visitors who exited the site without going to any other page. The average time spent on the site per visit was just over a minute. Meanwhile, a couple of quality, in-depth articles produced similar traffic and resulted in a bounce rate of less than 20 per cent. Moreover, visitors drawn by these articles viewed more than six pages per visit and stuck around for almost 12 minutes on average. The quality content engaged visitors. The brief blurbs didn’t. The quality content resulted in two new clients from Toronto and Kauai. Distributing heaps of hollow content proved to be an unprofitable activity.

Creating quality content

Before you can develop quality web content, you must clearly define your target market -- or better yet, your ideal customer. Only then can you determine this group’s particular needs or wants, and deliver relevant information that’s also: * Original (tap into your knowledge and experience) * In-depth (demonstrate your expertise) * Objective (support claims with facts and figures) Additional guidelines to develop quality web content: * Strong introduction -- Take a page from journalists; make your introductory sentences strong and meaningful. * Promote benefits -- Focus on your customers and emphasize benefits rather than features. Explain how you’re going to save them time, make them money and so on. * Make it scannable -- People don’t read web content, they scan it. So break text up into short sentences and paragraphs, and use lots of descriptive headlines. When it comes to the Internet, delivering insightful, relevant web content is the most effective way to connect with and engage your visitors. There is no substitute for good communications.

Your traffic and your bottom line

Take the time and effort to identify, target, attract and retain visitors who are genuinely interested in your product or service. Always strive for better traffic, not more.

About the Author

Rick Sloboda, Senior Web Copywriter at Webcopyplus, has been writing for websites since 2001 for some of the world’s largest service providers (Cingular, Scotia Bank, etc.). He speaks frequently at Web-related forums and seminars.