Your traffic is made of users not water

Ok a personal update first, I failed on my last post for my 2019 goal. It was just that Christmas was so good that I decided not to write the last post. I guess there is something poetic of coming close but not succeeding as well? Anyway, I decided to keep writing. I will try to keep a weekly cadence but will skip artificial targets. Ok so on to the actual post. 

I quite commonly hear people refer to traffic as if it is water that can be “directed” and lead as desired. There are at least three examples when it’s common to hear this.

When marketing other services. A site or destination with much traffic often fall into the trap of thinking that they can direct their traffic however they want. True, an influencer with a lot of trust can direct her followers to another product or service but this is a transaction of trust. If the followers don’t understand the product the influencer is directing them to then trust erodes and the CTR rates are likely to be low. 

When optimizing funnels. It’s easy to fall into the trap of optimizing certain steps in a funnel without thinking about what this means for the user. A softer commitment like a “Read more” – Call to action can lead to a higher top-funnel conversion but this will likely be traded for a lower conversion further down in the funnel. I believe the correct way to think in funnels is first to decide how to explain the offering in as good a way as possible first. Then of course optimizing copy can be worthwhile.

When launching new services. When expanding a business to adjacent areas and “jobs to be done”. A common logic is: “if only 5% of our users do the new job our revenues will grow with X million”. These arguments are often powerful, especially if you have large traffic because they generate great looking business cases and also sound quite conservative (“only 5%”). The problem is just that the 5% can easily turn to 0.05% if the users don’t understand what the new offering is or why they should use it. 

In some of the examples above the distinction might feel subtle. But recognizing that the traffic you have on your site is actually made up of users that need to understand and desire the things you put in front of them can make you avoid some costly mistakes.