Paying for it is cheating, right? When it comes to promoting your website, generating web traffic sometimes needs a helping hand. Using SEO is great, and is an approach we (and every other marketer) highly recommend – but a paid boost to your web traffic can make a big difference to your business.
These days, there are a lot of different sources of paid traffic available online. And no we’re not talking about those ‘I will send 10,000 people to your website in 3 days’ kind of packages (although we will take a look at those too).
Paid web traffic is a relatively broad term, and we’re going to look at the pros and cons of many of the options available. Pay per click is perhaps the best known options for buying website traffic, but there are actually quite a dizzying array of options available.
What types of paid traffic are there?
When it comes to buying website visitors, most will default to Google Ads. And for good reason; Google offer by far the most comprehensive platform to buy website visitors.
But there are plenty of other ways of generating online traffic. The ones you choose will most likely depend on your goals for your business and your site.
We’ll look in a little more depth shortly, but we’ll quickly summarise the options you have if you’re looking generate paid traffic online.
Pay per click or per impression
PPC is probably the first thing you think of when you think of paid traffic sources. You pay an advertising platform, normally one with access to a huge and global audience, to display your business banner or link to people based on their searches.
Popular platforms for pay per click ads (PPC) include Google Ads, Bing/Microsoft and Facebook and the other social media networks.
Paid or sponsored posts
Sponsored posts in high profile publications are nothing new. Think of advertorials in magazines or on TV for example. In the digital age, paid guest posts are big business, with a whole industry built around hosting articles with back links to your website.
Are these paid back links worth doing? Do they really boost your website clicks or traffic, and are they cost effective? Stay tuned, as we will look at this in depth shortly.
The rise of social media has bought with it a whole new channel of marketing. In fact, influencer marketing isn’t even really a new thing. Think of product placement in Bond movies, or the associated hype around products or brands associated with red carpet appearances by movie stars.
Influencer marketing does fall under the paid traffic sources, seeing as you’re paying someone to promote your business. However, cybersecurity ad verification company CHEQ has shown that influencer fraud costs marketers $1.3 billion each year.
Buying targeted traffic
You might have seen, or perhaps heard of, the option to buy targeted traffic sources for websites on sites like Fiverr. Many of these claim to be sending you carefully vetted traffic from specific locations around the world, for example ‘I guarantee 10,000 visits from the USA in 3 days’.
Your mother probably told you that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. We’ll look at this in depth later, but – spoiler alert – your mum was right.
Paid directory listings
Remember Yellow Pages? Directories are still about, although mostly online and perhaps less important than they once were. Having your business listed on a directory can be very important for certain types of industries, specifically niche and specialist services. Are paid directory listings worth the price of entry for the average business?
Pay Per Click Traffic Sources
As mentioned, PPC is probably the most popular and best known way to boost your website traffic with genuine and interested visitors. With so many years of building their algorithms, developing platforms and collecting data, of course this is the best way to get your message out there.
The downside? It can become expensive. Pay per click can be anything from less than a dollar all the way up to the multiples of hundreds for one click. The average for most businesses will be around the $5-10 per click on the most popular keywords, although this can surge at certain times and be subject to intense competition.
Another downside to pay per click, as we’ve discovered regularly on this blog, is the exposure to ad fraud and click fraud. These are practices designed to channel the ad spend of all types of companies to fraudulent parties, or even just to damage your advertising strategy.
So, is pay per click really worth it?
Well, besides these downsides, pay per click is very effective and creates a level playing field for all marketers and companies regardless of their size. Consider that $3.5 trillion was spent online in 2019, and that is forecast to grow to around $4.9 trillion by 2021, and you’ll see why online marketing is a big deal.
So, who are the players you need to get involved in your paid traffic strategy?
The big dogs when it comes to pay per click, Google Ads is the world’s biggest pay per click advertising source with between 70-73% of all global advertising spend on the platform.
Google is the world’s most used search engine, with 75% of all searches globally. As well as this, the Google Display Network, which is a list of about 2 million websites that ads can be displayed on as part of your PPC campaign, makes it even more appealing. When you consider also that the Display Network includes sites like YouTube, Google News and Blogger, you realise how big a deal Google PPC ads are.
Pros: Huge reach, easy to manage, accessible for any business, lots of options for different types of advertising
Cons: Lots of competition for keywords, open to ad fraud/click fraud, can become very expensive if not managed correctly
Microsoft’s search engine offering, Bing is the world’s second biggest search engine advertising network. Although this is only 9% of the worldwide market share, they seem to have a big presence in the USA where they apparently have a 33% market share.
Using Bing’s PPC ads gives you access to the Microsoft Network of sites which includes MSN and Yahoo! Searches done through Yahoo show results from Bing’s search engine software, and with 3% of global searches, that’s another nifty little slice.
Pros: Less competition for top spot than Google, cost per click less than Google, access to popular sites such as Yahoo!
Cons: Smaller market share, still vulnerable to click fraud and ad fraud, some limitations on targeting ads
The Facebook Family
The world’s biggest social media network has become one of the biggest options for advertisers in recent years. Despite negative press and even some boycotting by businesses, Facebook still attracts between 20-25% of the global online ad spend.
That controversial access to user data is what gives it the edge, with the option to target user demographics on a level that the search networks just can’t. In terms of paid traffic, it’s a very effective way to build up some steam on your marketing and get great visibility. In fact, adding your business to Facebook has become standard practice these days, generating decent traffic for all kinds of websites.
Consider also that Facebook owns Instagram, the ‘other’ huge social media network, and there is also a display network, known as the ‘Audience Network’. In short, using Facebook as a paid traffic source can be a very potent recipe for success.
Pros: Access to users of the world’s two biggest social media platforms, easy to manage and relatively affordable CPC compared to Google, demographic access is unrivalled
Cons: Data suggests that Facebook’s organic reach has been depleted (so you need to spend to get results), reach limited to active users of Facebook and Instagram, Facebook ads can be subject to click fraud
The Other social media sites
For brevity, we’re putting all the other social media sites into this list which includes:
Each of these sites independently offer paid ads targeting their users. Of course, each come their own pluses and minuses, but in general it all comes down to targeting active users. Reddit, for example, is one of the internet’s fast growing websites and an increasingly important site for SEO marketers to share their links.
For B2B, Linkedin has grown into a very important platform, and Twitter and Pinterest both have their own loyal users too. A benefit to all of these is a relatively lower CPC than Google, the ability to target traffic through interests and demographics like Facebook, and slightly less competition than both of the above.
Pros: Good access to user demographics, relatively un-competitive, lower CPC than the search giants
Cons: Reach limited to active audience on platforms, some doubts about value for money and effectiveness, additional campaigns to manage if you’re also running Google/FB etc
You’ve most likely seen these names, normally next to a sponsored post saying, “This mom found these two adorable puppies, what happened next will make your heart skip a beat.” Yes, this type of clickbait probably puts you, Dear Savvy Marketer, right off using these platforms.
But hold up… These options for online paid advertising can be incredibly effective.
Generally speaking, native advertising networks are designed to for content marketers to pay to promote blogs or articles that drive traffic to their website. If you have a nice clickable piece of content that will draw clicks like moths to a flame, then Taboola and Outbrain are your guys.
Do they work? Do they supply high quality web traffic? Well, in a word, kinda. The cost per click is low, and as a paid traffic source, you are going to drive a lot of traffic to your site. But when it comes to conversions, it’s down to how good your content is. Taboola/Outbrain and related sites are all about content marketing, which we’ll look at in the next section.
Pros: Share your content and drive huge amounts of paid traffic, get your post shown on a huge array of popular websites
Cons: Might be seen by some as click bait, you’ll need some really well written content, some reports suggest a large amount of bot traffic
Paid or Sponsored Posts
Marketers have grown wise to the importance of the guest post for a combination of traffic sources and to boost domain authority (DA). Although DA has been around for years, a whole industry in pokey websites designed almost exclusively to host guest posts has sprung up, slightly skewing the effectiveness of this practice.
However, guest posts on the right website are most definitely worth the price of entry (which will hopefully be free!). As far as paid traffic sources go, a guest post on a website like Buzzfeed, Huff Post or Business Insider will reach a huge audience. As a happy side effect, a post on a reputable website will do wonders for your SEO and your domain authority.
Be warned, however, that Google does frown on paid links, seeing it as a ‘grey hat’ (e.g; shady) SEO technique. But the assumption is that, from a reputable source, this can be overlooked and seen as ‘white hat’ (e.g; good).
The trick is to keep an eye out for claims from website owners about the huge amount of traffic generated from a site you’ve never heard of. And, on closer inspection, it’s a shoddy site built around a generic wordpress theme with lots of content that’s badly written, terribly formatted and surrounded by ads. If the alarm bells are going off, that’s because you’ve probably stumbled on the kind of site that ad fraud networks operate.
Yes, these sites will likely drive traffic to your website, but it’s not a traffic source you’ll want in the long run. Research what are popular sites in your niche, dig deep into the stats for sites you’ve never head of, build up a relationship with the publisher and don’t just shell out money because the domain authority is good.
Pros: Great for your reach and visibility, will also likely improve SEO from the right website, can be cost effective in the long run
Cons: Low quality sites can drive bot traffic to your website, low quality sites can also negatively affect your SEO and domain authority (DA), often sites for paid guest posts just disappear if the webmaster can’t afford the upkeep
Despite some bad press in recent years, influencer marketing as a paid traffic source isn’t going anywhere. The reason is, influencer marketing has been proven to be effective. Consider that most milennials and Gen Z’ers are more likely to watch YouTube or spend hours scrolling Instagram and Snapchat, and this is where influencer marketing as a traffic source for your website or business starts to make sense.
One of the huge benefits of influencer marketing is that viewers likely trust your influencer. Seeing your product in their hands is a solid endorsement that will make others want it. Go back to the 1980s, and Run DMC released ‘My Adidas’, which is an opportunity that Adidas seized to great effect.
How does it work? There are agencies who manage influencers and specialise in pairing brands with the right guy/gal. But if you want to DIY, you simply find the influencer you want to work with and reach out to them. Simple as that. They often have their own ground rules and pricing, but the good thing about working with people directly is that you can negotiate your own deal.
The downsides to influencer marketing are that people are people, and sometimes they do silly things. For example, if your chosen influencer gets involved in some scandal, this can reflect badly on your brand. It’s also hard to quantify how effective your partnership has been, unless they share a trackable affiliate link, for example.
Pros: Effective in targeting younger generations, can be cost effective with the right influencer, can quickly establish your brand visibility with a market segment
Cons: Your influencer’s conduct can affect how your brand is viewed, ROI hard to measure, influencers might lose engagement or stop producing content without notice
Buy Targeted Web Traffic
There is no shortage of places where you can buy web traffic online. A simple search for ‘buy website traffic’ nets 1.25 billion results. Most of these claim to have 100% human traffic, no bots, targeted niches and a huge amount of traffic from whichever national source you’re looking to target. Often the prices are incredibly low too, sometimes fractions of a penny per visitor. So what’s the catch with this cheap website traffic? Are these really genuine humans clicking onto your website?
Most of the platforms offering cheap website traffic use sneaky tactics to drive traffic, for example using pop-ups (or pop-unders) on websites. They also place ads on a wide network of low quality sites which have high traffic volumes, most of which is from bots based in click farms. Yes, even though they say there are no bots, this can’t be guaranteed.
Generally speaking, buying cheap targeted web traffic from sites like Fiverr means you have little to no control over your traffic sources. You are also very unlikely to see much in the way of engagement, with that huge surge in traffic mostly from accidental, redirected or even automated sources.
When it comes to paid website traffic sources, this can be a ‘quick win’ to boost your views, but usually at a detriment to your website overall. It’s strongly advised that unless you aim is just to increase your website views, for whatever reason, you should avoid using cheap paid web traffic.
Pros: A fast way to boost your website views, cheaper than PPC methods
Cons: No way to control sources of traffic, very little site engagement, not always what it is claimed to be (i.e; often bots or redirected traffic), usually click farm traffic, even if it says it isn’t…
Paid Directory Listings
If you’re as old as me, you might remember sites like DMOZ, or the fact that you used to need to submit your website to directories to be listed. For example, Yahoo! used to require webmasters to submit their site so that it could be indexed on their search results.
Google changed the game with it’s sophisticated algorithm which removed the need for any of that legwork. Instead, Google finds you through your site’s relevance, traffic history and well optimised content. But, that doesn’t mean that directories have gone away, and in fact there are plenty of sites that will list your site for free, but usually ask for a fee to promote or bump your site up the list.
As a paid web traffic source, are these directories worth their price? In general, no not really. But, as usual, it’s not quite as simple as that. Some specialist industries such as architecture or law may have directories that are only open to members which usually need paying for.
Do you need to pay to be listed on Yelp or Yell.com? If being at the top of these directories might make a difference to your business, then you might say yes, so it comes down to your business strategy. For most websites, for example if you’re an eCommerce site or a fintech startup, being on a directory site will probably make little difference.
Pros: Backlinks are good and directories are usually do-follow, extra visibility can be useful, annual subscription can be affordable
Cons: Often used by cold calling marketers to farm contact details (hence, lots of spam and nuisance calls), not necessary if you have decent content indexed online, PPC much more effective at targeting specific demographics
As a website marketer, paying for website traffic is perhaps inevitable, but it’s knowing what to choose. You’re obviously going to want the most effective option, and also avoid exposure to fraud. Pay per click has become the go-to option for paid traffic simply by virtue of being effective and easy to manage. You have broad control over your keywords, geographic and demographic targeting and even your budget.
But, depending on your product or service, harnessing the power of influencer marketing or sponsored posts can be an effective additional traffic source for your website. Paying for ads on social media is also something that has a lot of potential for marketing success, if done right.
Any marketer needs to bear in mind the potential for fraud on their paid ads, especially with PPC. Protecting pay per click ads from fraudulent practices might not be the first thing you think of when setting up your marketing, but you’ll most likely find it to be hugely beneficial.
If you’re running pay per click ads on Google or Bing, check out our click fraud prevention software and see how much of a difference it can make. Most of our customers find on average that about 20% of their ad spend goes to fraudulent sources. So, if you pay to promote your website, make sure your ad is seen only by potential customers…
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