Q and A: Does more traffic increase a site’s position in the organic search results?

QuestionDear Kalena…

My colleague that looks after SEO for our site has had a piece of advice that increasing the amount of traffic through the site (regardless of where the traffic comes from) will increase our position in the organic listings. This has now become her latest mission – to drive as much traffic as possible.

Suggestions have included optimising for very generic keywords and so on. My own responsibility in the company is for sales and also SEM for the site. So far, in all of the SEM/SEO research I have done and all of the articles I have read, I don’t think I have ever seen this point mentioned as an important factor. Therefore, firstly, is this true? Secondly, I have always assumed that traffic is only beneficial if it is relevant. Obviously from my sales point of view I am keen to see higher conversion rates and generating less relevant traffic won’t achieve this.

My view on this is not going down well here so I would be very grateful for your opinion so that we can clarify the situation.

Kevin

Dear Kevin

I’ve never been a big believer in traffic for traffic’s sake. I mean sure, if you throw crap on a wall, some of it will stick so it makes sense that throwing more crap will result in more of it sticking. But you still end up with a lot of crap to clean up.

It IS true that Google’s ranking algorithm gives more popular sites a boost in the search results, but the way that popularity is measured is important. Google looks at the history of a site, the back links, the period of time it took to build the backlinks, the traffic history and most importantly, where that traffic is coming from.

Although it’s not perfect, Google’s algorithm has failsafe checks in place to ensure that sites can’t easily cheat the system. For example, sites that start using paid-to-surf programs or traffic exchanges to build traffic are quite easily spotted and any benefits from such practices would be filtered out in the ranking algorithm. Same goes for participation in low quality link schemes or free-for-all link farms. You can bet that sites that start to receive a huge influx of traffic or links are monitored pretty closely for this type of behavior.

Even if your colleague proposes to increase traffic by using more legitimate means such as targeting more generic keywords and search queries, I don’t really see the logic. By optimizing your site for only the most relevant and focused keyword phrases, you will attract fewer visitors, but those visitors will be highly qualified when they arrive because they have searched for *exactly* what you offer and therefore are much more likely to become customers. In my opinion, it’s much better to receive 500 visitors a week if 150 of them become customers than to receive 5000 visitors a week if only 50 of them convert.

Increase your site traffic by all means, but make sure it’s relevant traffic and built up using legitimate methods. Look at your site stats and see which pages on your site are the most popular. Create more pages with similar or related content. Add a blog for your customers. Write articles or How To guides about your products or services. As you pointed out, relevancy is key to traffic growth and sales and your colleague needs to understand this.

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About Kalena Jordan

In my day job, I'm Director of Studies and tutor at the online training institution Search Engine College. In my spare time, I'm a search engine agony aunt and SEO to global clients. I've been marketing websites online since 1996 and blogging about search since 2002. To learn more, visit