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There are many people who advocate using “free” traffic sources instead of paying for visitors to your website or blog – but the reality is that there is no such thing as “free traffic”. Allow me to explain…
1. When internet marketers talk about free traffic methods, they usually talk about things like blogging, SEO, social media marketing, forum marketing, and content syndication. Unless you pay someone else to do it, all of these are considered to be free of any cost.
What most people fail to realize, however, is that the traffic didn’t just appear out of thin air. They worked to get it. In many cases, they put in a lot of time and effort.
Now consider this:
If you did the same amount (the same number of hours) of work (as you did to generate the traffic) at a basic minimum wage, how much would you have earned?
Mathematically speaking, your “free traffic” cost you as much as that.
It’s not all as simple as that. Most free methods of website- or blog traffic generation require a substantial amount of effort before it starts picking up speed, and after that it keeps gathering momentum as long as you keep working on it.
(For SEO it’s about the amount of content and backlinks, and for social- or forum marketing it’s about establishing credibility and building a following. Those of you who have done it will know that building a social following, especially a targeted one, takes quite a while before you can get it up to a point where you start seeing regular traffic and re-shares)
As such, it may seem very “expensive” at the start, but the effort versus reward ratio improves over time. Ideally, you should keep track of your hours, and evaluate the effort versus traffic numbers on a year by year basis, or every six months.
For instance – if you built your blog (and social reach) up to the point where it brings you (for instance) 200 visitors per day, and you spent an average of 3 hours per day over the last year making it happen, that means that you “worked” 3 hours for every 200 visitors. Granted, those are visitors of a reasonably high quality.
So, if you would have worked for – for instance – $10 per hour, you would have earned $30 in that time. It also means that you have been investing the equivalent of $30 per day in your traffic generation.
(Logically speaking, if you earned the money from working extra hours or doing a spare time job, you could have invested it into buying traffic)
$30 over one year…
For some the rewards from that would be satisfactory. Others may wonder whether they may have been better off working for a boss for those 3 hours per day (let’s say 5 days per week, which comes to 50 weeks at $150 per week), and then spending that $7,500 on buying traffic. The math depends on what you are marketing, how you are doing it, and who your target market is (that will determine the cost of paid traffic, and the cost per acquisition for each new customer or subscriber).
2. Many people would argue that your “bonus traffic” (re-shares, re-tweets, etc) constitutes free traffic…
Yes and no.
Yes, it didn’t cost you anything – but on the other hand it still wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t put in the time and effort (or the money) to generate those visitors in the first place.
So, logically speaking, those additional shares may reduce the “cost” (whether calculated in time or in money) per visitor, but you didn’t really get them for free.
For many people trying their hand at internet marketing, working is simply not an option. Or if they do work, doing the extra hours every day (to get money for buying traffic) isn’t an option. But at the end of the day, you are building a business – and even your own hours should be seen as an expense to make it happen.
Most professional marketers find that, as they keep growing their businesses, they invest more and more into paid traffic, and they spend less and less time on trying to generate free traffic – because as they grow, their time becomes more and more valuable.
At the end of the day, there is no such thing as free traffic – but for now, depending on your situation, it might be more convenient for you to “pay” for it with your time rather than with your money.