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January 23, 2024

Why Your High-Traffic Site Isn't Converting

Tips on how you can improve your content strategy

As a business, I'm sure you've experienced the thrill of a high-traffic blog post. You check your analytics and see a record number of page views. It feels amazing!

But then you check your conversion rates, and they're disappointing. Very few of those readers took action: none subscribed to your newsletter, purchased your product, or even followed you on social media.

We've all been there. As a writer, I've been guilty of chasing page views instead of quality, focusing on shallow clickbait instead of valuable content. It's tempting--high-traffic articles boost your metrics and your ego. But they don't deliver the business results you want.

Engagement metrics like bounce rate, time on page, and social shares tell you more about how your content performs. If you're not careful, high traffic might be nothing but an empty victory.

Learn how to spot misleading traffic and what to do to fix it. 

How to tell if traffic metrics are misleading

If you find analytics baffling, you're not alone. Analytics tools churn out hundreds of metrics. Some are clearly important, such as revenue or conversion rates. Others are obscure or impossible to act on without extra context.

Information such as bounce rate or average session duration can hint at content quality. But they can also be misleading. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking high traffic and low bounce rate are excellent signs. 

A high bounce rate (typical for blog posts) can be an indication of mismatched intent. Say a reader was looking for a vegan spinach dip recipe for a party tonight. They found their way to your blog post and loved the recipe. They don't need to read the rest of your blog. They bounced, but that's not a bad thing.

On the other hand, a low bounce rate and high traffic might mean your page is drawing largely unqualified traffic. If readers are immediately leaving your site to read on elsewhere, that's a sign your content didn't meet their expectations. 

You also want to watch for time on page. It's another metric that trips many people up. If readers are spending ages on your page, that's often a good sign. But pages that rank well and drive a lot of traffic often get traffic from uninterested readers that bring the average session length down (and not in a good way).

Conversion rate is the most obvious sign there's a disconnect between the traffic coming in and the value of your content. It tells you how many visitors take the next step after reading your content.

Low conversion rates don't mean your content is bad. They just mean it's not attracting the right people.

Remember, you want the right metrics, not all metrics. Focusing on a few key numbers makes it much easier to analyze results and optimize your content.

Why businesses aim for high traffic instead of high-quality traffic

It's easy to see how high traffic is tantalizing for businesses. It feels like the entire internet is reading your blog. It boosts your company's visibility and authority, which are both valuable assets. It can also bring in overflow from a new target audience you're trying to reach.

High-traffic blog posts are generally clear and easy to read. They often hit on emotional triggers, which keep readers engaged. They're filled with takeaways, which might be useful for you or your business. 

This approach to content creation is actually quite the strategy.

Whether it's reader-focused, consumer-focused, or accommodating Google's needs, you've done an excellent job. 

But for high-quality traffic, it's lacking. Valuable content serves a purpose beyond filling an internet void. It resonates with your ideal reader or customer. It's informative, actionable, or even just entertaining in a way that stays with you. All that other stuff-views, comments, shares-it's all just metrics. 

Where businesses go wrong with unqualified traffic

Let's give businesses the benefit of the doubt: they don't intentionally seek out unqualified traffic for their sites. Most of the time, misleading high-traffic posts happen when the goals of a piece don't align with business goals.

Problematic trends might emerge if high-traffic blog posts are viewed disproportionately (compared to a more balanced metrics strategy), page views are the only metric assessed, or content is evaluated by first-time visitors only, rather than by looking at audience development and other signals of qualified traffic. 

It's also important to double-check content goals against business goals. Each piece of content you produce needs a clear, measurable goal. What do you want this piece to accomplish? This goal determines how you measure success.  

Why businesses go this route and how to fix it

What you allow in your funnel is what reaches your bottom line. If you pay shallow or poorly targeted content too much mind, your content strategy won't help you bring in the right kind of users, and won't help you make more sales. On the other hand, if you hyper-focus on quality, you'll see the right metrics go up in no time.

If high traffic feels elusive for your business, there's a good chance it's unqualified. But don't worry, quality traffic is well within your reach. Here's how you can use human-centric SEO to make sure your content hits the mark and energizes your bottom line:

Care more about the 'why' than the 'what' of your high-traffic content

It's easy to assume the page with the most views is your best one. That's not always the case. You want to know why a page is successful, not just that it is. An international furniture company, for example, discovered a keyword-stuffed, poorly-written piece of content was their most-visited blog post. That was motivating--but its poor quality also diminished the company's reputation in the eyes of newer readers. 

If you cut poorly performing content, your bounce rate and average session duration will improve, which in turn positively influences your search engine rankings. 

Look beyond vanity metrics

Page views and time on page are great, but they're not the best way to understand the true impact of your content. Consider using different types of metrics. For example, a publisher discovered many of its opinion pieces were being read by new, engaged readers. Convinced this was an untapped audience, they doubled down on the number of opinion pieces it published. 

A print-on-demand apparel company uses another strategy. Like many e-commerce brands, they're interested in the purchase funnel: how did a visitor engage with their content and eventually make a purchase? They use this data to inform their full marketing strategy, from new product launches to content themes. 

Prioritize user intent

Think of human-centric SEO as the art of optimizing your content for humans. It encourages you to hit business goals by addressing user needs. The process is two-fold: first, you need to know what your ideal user wants, thinks, and feels. Then, take steps to make them feel special. 

Take this as an example: when knowing their user, a global oven manufacturer focuses on usage inspiration and helping readers improve their indoor climate (where most people use ovens). They know many people want to learn about different recipes and how they can go the extra mile for the environment. By publishing articles on those topics, they address different aspects of their ideal user while keeping their business goals in mind.

Another example is making your users feel special, which can be daunting - but works. A digital marketing SaaS company has strict guidelines for how technical content should be presented. It's rare for a brand to take such a stance, but it works for them. Users are more confident when they can validate or disprove the data they've collected, instead of having to rely on gut feelings. 

Prioritizing quality traffic: 4 content marketing tips

A well-optimized and user-focused content marketing strategy is the most effective way to generate high-quality traffic and increase your ROI in the long term. Here are four tips to get you started.

1. Create a content roadmap

If you want to organically rank for a target keyword, make sure to strategically plan ahead. Use a content gap analysis to identify the types of content your site is missing, such as buying guides, product comparisons, how-to articles, or informational posts. Plan your content calendar around filling those gaps. 

You also want to watch user trends and update the roadmap accordingly. For example, a sneaker company initially planned to focus on running shoes, but after seeing skyrocketing interest in eco-friendly options, they shifted their focus to meet user demand from their ideal customer.

2. Don't be afraid to redesign or redirect old content

Dragging old content along can hold back your site's overall performance. If a piece of content is no longer in line with your brand's message, quality standards, or user needs, consider consolidating it with a similar or more successful article, updating it to reflect current standards, or getting rid of it altogether.

The creator of the Mockingbird marketing software took this a step further by redirecting old, unengaged blog posts to top performers using a 301 redirect. This helped spread link equity and traffic across their site, consolidating their authority and user engagement in high-performing posts. 

3. Constantly recalibrate your strategy

Things change. Market shifts, new competitors rise to prominence, and users may become less or more interested in themed content areas. Keep a close eye on your content performance and be ready to adapt your strategy on the fly.

4. Use your data for every decision

If you get stuck on a decision, let your data guide you. From tracking keyword rankings and click-through rates to bounce rates and exit rates, you can glean insights from the way users interact with your site. Data should only be one piece of the puzzle--you should also bring in metrics (like revenue potential, customer LTV, or brand goals) and consider the context of the data point you're looking at (like a lower bounce rate being a good thing).

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