Generating more traffic to a website is one of the important aspects of organic search optimization.
After all, it’s our job as SEO professionals to do this.
It’s our role to get more eyeballs on a client’s website by implementing various technical optimizations, strategic content plans, off-page recommendations, and so on.
Every SEO report highlights organic traffic. This metric is one of the pillar key performance indicators, right?
While driving increased traffic to a website is foundational as part of a solidified organic strategy, it’s also important to remember that increased organic traffic does not necessarily translate into a net positive.
The following scenarios are examples of when driving more traffic is not better for a business.
1. Users Are Not Finding What They Are After & There Is an Intent Mismatch
This one is straightforward.
Let’s say a visitor is searching for a specific query; your site is ranking highly for that query and they click on a result that leads to a page on your website.
However, the page they reach does not match the intent of what they were looking for and they quickly leave.
This is not a positive experience for the searcher, as the result does not match the user’s intent.
We know that Google’s algorithm is constantly improving to show the results that best match a user’s query, but it’s not 100% perfect.
If a searcher is looking for something, comes to your website, generates more traffic, but then quickly leaves because the content of your site is not what they were after, this can contribute to higher bounce rate metrics, lower time-on-site metrics, etc.
These things can send negative signals back to Google’s algorithm, indicating that your website result is not the ideal one for that query or intent.
2. Your Content Strategy Is Non-Existent or Poorly Executed
Would you host a dinner party if every room in your house was a mess?
Or if you didn’t have food and drinks ready to serve in time for the event?
If your guests showed up when your house was in this state, they probably wouldn’t be writing home about your get-together, unfortunately.
Similarly, if you try to attract traffic to a website without having foundational optimizations in place, people are not going to stick around.
If you don’t have a thorough content strategy in place or are publishing poorly written content, users are not going to stick around.
If you have a site that loads at the rate of a tortoise or is not mobile-friendly, users will not stick around.
This is so important to Google that they’re launching the Page Experience update to better measure how well each webpage serves the needs of organic search visitors.
It needs to be that important to you, too.
Your SEO house should be in order, as much as it possibly can be, before you invite people over.
3. More Traffic Is Not More Valuable Than Conversions
The above two points go into a bit of a classic debate between which is more important – more organic traffic or more organic conversions?
There are many different points that can be made on both sides of this question.
However, if you ask me, I’d rather attract 100,000 visitors to a site and have 50% of them convert (what a conversion rate, right?), than 200,000 visitors and 25% of them convert.
The goal of an SEO strategy is not merely to garner more traffic.
If we stopped there, we would be eliminating one of the (if not the single) most important aspects of the role of an SEO: to drive more ROI for businesses.
If you are seeing traffic increases but that traffic is not also improving conversion rate, you are not truly achieving the best organic results.
4. The Site Is Receiving Negative Press
Traffic gains can happen for reasons you would probably rather avoid.
If your business is under scrutiny or receiving negative press, going back to your client and reporting that you saw an 80% increase in organic traffic MoM is not exactly positive.
If a recent scandal drew in a surge of visitors, you wouldn’t want to highlight that as a positive gain to a client, and also try to claim that it was due to a solidified organic strategy either.
Situational awareness of what is going on from a more holistic standpoint is key.
5. More Traffic Across All Channels Is Backfiring
If we look outside of the organic channel, we can easily identify other situations in which it’s not ideal to drive more traffic.
If you’re driving website traffic through other channels, such as paid, to a site that is not optimized – content, technical, or user experience – this can backfire.
Our counterparts in PPC could be paying a higher cost-per-acquisition and driving more traffic to a page that is quickly encouraging users to leave.
6. Traffic Is Not Human or Desirable Bot Traffic
Paying close attention to traffic sources and channels in Google Analytics is crucial.
If this traffic is not from humans but spambots instead, an increase in traffic would not be a positive movement in this case.
It’s estimated that 37% of website activity is created by bots, and less than half of this bot activity is legit.
Spambot traffic is a type of traffic that is generally illegitimate traffic sent to a site that skews and inflates traffic data.
See How to Filter Out Referral Spam in Google Analytics to learn more.
7. You’re Wasting Valuable Resources
Sometimes, increased site traffic can strain your resources. You might have a really solid informational piece of content driving a ton of traffic, but if it’s not relevant to your audience you can end up with unintended consequences.
This goes beyond server issues to very real cost of frontline staff and customer service agents having to field calls, emails, chats, and in-person inquiries from people who aren’t likely to become customers.
Ensuring that the leads you’re driving from search are relevant and high intent is important, too.
Drive Value, Not Just Traffic
Not all traffic is the same. Not all traffic is meaningful.
While driving traffic to a website is a fundamental aspect for search engine optimization, that should come with a caveat.
Driving quality traffic to a site is a fundamental aspect of search engine optimization.
Reporting on traffic increases that ultimately contributed no value – no engaging content piece that attracted more users, no optimization improvement that leads to more conversions, etc. – is not a value-add.
The quality of your traffic and the actions they take need to be top of mind in every optimization you make.