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A Comparison of Free Versus Paid Traffic

Jun 7, 2008
When trying to drive more traffic to your site, you're faced with whether to go the free traffic route or use paid traffic programs like pay per click (PPC) marketing. Free traffic routes deliver the best ROI (return on your investment) because there's no out of pocket cost. But the traffic you bring in may not be as targeted as a PPC campaign.

You can choose from free traffic-generating methods such as articles marketing, social networking and forum marketing on niche-related message boards using a link-driven signature file.

Article marketing is a great source of targeted free traffic. Once your articles are published on the net, they can become viral in a short period of time. If you are targeting the right keywords, your article can be ranked very high by Google. Articles can potentially drive targeted traffic to your site for years. It's a passive source of target generation because you only have to right it once and it can float around the 'net for eternity.

The problem with free traffic is that it's a work-heavy advertising technique. In order to gain high amounts of traffic, a marketer needs to constantly advertise their site to get their link exposed to prospective customers. If time is in short supply, free marketing isn't an option that will benefit you.

If you have more time then money when you're first starting out, then free is the way to go. Once you see some profits from your efforts, you can invest them back into your business and get both paid and free working in harmony.

Paid traffic avenues cost you money to gain traffic, but if executed properly, the ROI will be much higher and the maintenance much lower. If you're using article directories, you may have to wait 10 days for approval, but an AdWords campaign can be live in minutes.

While costs are considerably higher, so is the potential for profits. If you don't know how to conduct a savvy PPC campaign, you will risk losing money. There are barriers in place to prevent anything bad from happening, such as daily limits to your spending. Unfortunately, many marketers put limits far beyond what they can actually afford, not knowing Google will find a way to tap into your coffers.

In order to run a successful PPC campaign you must be targeting the right keywords for your specific niche market. Finding huge keyword search counts, and low competition for those words means you'll be paying considerably less per keyword. Paying less and getting targeted traffic will give you an even higher ROI.

The best way to use paid and free traffic is to implement a strategy that combines both methods. You might run a PPC campaign and at the same create a lens on Squidoo or a blog - both for the same keywords.

Days later, you notice your lens is #1 in the Google SERPs. Do you need to continue the PPC campaign? That's what testing and tracking of conversions will tell you. You might find that the PPC ad linking visitors directly to your sales page has a higher conversion than those who click through to the lens and then have to take an additional step to get to your sales page.

Savvy marketers understand the inherent need to continually track and tweak their marketing efforts. Implement new strategies. See what works best for your niche audience. Then wash, rinse, and repeat your success!
About the Author
Ron Richardson is an online entrepreneur and consultant.
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