Buying Online Traffic for Links – Worth it?

Dec 7, 2012   //   by Carter   //   internet marketing, SEO, SEO Blog  //  2 Comments

Distilled recently discussed the possibility of buying awareness to build links, a possibility that I’ve toyed around with in the past with some success. Carson Ward’s test certainly demonstrated it was possible to build links this way, but is it a worthwhile use of time and money?
I hate giving vague answers, but the truth is that it’s going to depend on your content, audience, and industry. However, I can offer some advice on how to figure it out for yourself, and possible other uses of advertising traffic you may not have considered.

Which Channels Are Best?

Carson’s results are in line with my own on this. AdWords impressions cost more than the keyword tool says they’re going to, and the value probably isn’t there, because even low competition informational keywords end up going for about half a dollar per click. AdWords appears to be for selling, plain and simple.

Reddit and StumbleUpon ads are cheapest, but also have some of the lowest time on site. Of course, high bounce rates can make time on site appear lower than it actually is. The most promising ads seem to be on Facebook or targeted display ads, with the display ads doing best in terms of links and price. Obviously, Facebook ads can lead to social subscribers and word of mouth that are beneficial even in the absence of links.
That said, I wouldn’t write off Reddit or StumbleUpon as possibilities, simply because they send such a large amount of traffic at such a low cost. If you gain enough traction with StumbleUpon, it’s algorithm will continue to send traffic for quite a while. In both cases, if you can get the conversion rates high enough, the huge traffic potential makes these promising channels for those who know how to use them.
As I said, success is going to depend on your company, which is why you’ll need to find ways to…

Measure Success

How you measure success is going to depend on what your goals are, and links aren’t necessarily the only thing you should be taking into consideration. However, assuming it’s all about search engine authority, you’ll need to be thinking about:

  • Time invested in the ad campaigns
  • Time that would have been invested in outreach for the same results
  • The financial value of the time invested in either
  • The possibility that ads and outreach can work together as multipliers
  • The link diversity, the quality of the site sites that link, the domain and page authority of the links, the relevance of the link pages and anchor text, the number of referrals from the links, and the quality of the referral traffic
  • The actual impact on rankings

Clearly, metrics are never as clean in this industry as we’d like them to be, but here are a few ways to make things cleaner (I’m considering outreach a “channel” as well):

  • Track which channels are used on which posts, and the number of hours invested in each channel toward that post
  • Vary which channels are being used to what extent, and randomly choose one channel to avoid using at all for each post
  • Over time, look for correlations between the number of hours invested in each tactic, and the results
  • Examine whether a mixture of strategies results in a different impact than either of the strategies acting alone
  • When possible, compare metrics between posts that went live at the same time

This is not nearly as clean as straightforward A/B testing, but it can be hard to justify using only one channel for each post. Even when you can, you still have to recognize that the content of each post is different, and this is going to have an impact on your results. You can only compensate for this by testing the results on a large number of posts.

Another Use for Paid Traffic

What many online marketers don’t realize is that paid traffic can also be used to test content. All too often, a piece of content goes live and falls flat on its face. If you’ve invested in particularly large amount of time in a piece of content, it may be worth the effort to test its effectiveness using paid traffic. In this way, you can test the content before it is released the general public.

Conclusions

Is it worth it to buy awareness as a method of building links? My experience tells me that it probably will be useful for most businesses to divert some of their funds in this direction. The most important aspect of this is making sure the ads are only displayed and written for influencers, the kind of people who will link to and share content. Other advertising dollars will probably be better spent on direct conversions.
However, it’s equally important to recognize that advertising channels become increasingly saturated over time, and ad blindness is a growing concern. Investing in relationships is a skill that can’t be outright replaced with ad money.
Do you think it’s worth it to buy traffic as a link building method?
Image credit: joiseyshowaa

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Carter

Carter Bowles is a freelance writer, science blogger, and SEO enthusiast. He lives in Idaho with his wife and daughter, where he is pursuing degrees in physics and statistics. Carter writes for Northcutt, a Chicago based SEO and Inbound Marketing company. Like Northcutt on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and check out all they have to offer at www.northcutt.com.

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  • mia says:

    Hello ,
    Really great topic and post.I agree with the points mentioned here.. I find something cool here.. Great share.

  • Brian says:

    The problem I always see with buying traffic is that too many people end up never coming back. It just seems very inefficient.