What's A Surfer Worth?

Stephen Yagielowicz
One of the most fundamental questions a commercial website owner should ask him or herself is "What is the true worth of a visitor to my website?"

While this might seem pretty basic, more often than not, webmasters who consider such things get caught up in recurring partnership percentages and pay-per-signup payout rates, with a resulting lack of attention to the basic value of each visitor.

For example, let's say that you send traffic to a sponsor that is converting at 1:500 and that sponsor pays you $50 per-signup. $50 divided by the 500 referrals that you made in order to earn it, means that each of your referrals was worth 10 cents. Compare this to the average prices of quality traffic from PPC and other sources – and to the prices that your sponsor pays you; based upon your own conversion ratio and the sponsor's payout level.

But your traffic is more than successful referrals to your sponsor: it's every visitor to your website.

Let's say that you convert ten percent of your site's visitors into referrals. To make the 500 referrals you need to make one sale in the example above, you need 5,000 visitors to your website. Each of these visitors to your website are thus worth a penny.

These numbers aren't necessarily based upon typical website numbers, but upon "easy mathematics" – for example, your sponsor might only pay $30 per signup and convert only one out of every 900 referrals you send him (1:900) and you might only convert a fraction of one percent of your website's visitors into a referral to that sponsor...

As they say, "your mileage may vary" – but what's important to know is what that "mileage" is.

If you divide your website's total revenues by the total number of surfers you had during the same period, you'll know the value of a single surfer. If you remove the "undesirables" from this count, then your per-surfer value goes up. The higher this value, the more money you will make. It's as simple as that.

When you consider this, the obvious conclusion (although a conclusion that might leave you wondering how it can be right) is that sometimes "less traffic equals higher profits."

For example, let's say that you run a TGP that's open to any and all visitors. You might be seeing conversions to your sponsors of 1:3000 (or worse), all while incurring ever higher hosting bills as you burn bandwidth wholesale. Conversions from visitors to referrals might be far more abysmal as well, with even a one percent referral rate requiring 300,000 unique visitors to your website to make...

If you can increase the odds in your favor by decreasing the amount of "freeloaders" hitting your website, then your profits will increase and thus the value of a single surfer.

One way to do this is by redirecting visitors from non-productive countries. Check your server logs using a decent stats package that shows you what countries your visitors are coming from. How many of these locations are "un-billable" or have historically shown excessive levels of fraud? Use a redirect script to send these folks elsewhere. For many free site / TGP owners, this might cut their traffic in half, but it will also cut their bandwidth expense in half, raise their referral conversion rates, increase the per-surfer value of their traffic and thus their profits.

Not everyone will be as picky as you, however, either out of ignorance; an altruistic desire to provide free porn to the masses; or because they have more available billing options than you. As such, the "undesirable" surfers, rather than simply rejected, can be sent to top lists, pages with a dozen banner exchanges on them, your trades – in short, anywhere where you might have a chance at a "better" surfer than the one you're dumping.

Another problem area (and one that is bound to be controversial) is the subject of bookmarkers. While pay site owners will want members to bookmark the entrance to their members area, nearly every TGP encourages bookmarkers – many because they see other TGPs doing the same. While it's true that the common use of trade scripts to boost traffic is effective up to a certain multiple of bookmarkers, one must consider the value of this traffic in 2005.

Frankly, anyone who is bookmarking a TGP isn't doing so because "Maybe tomorrow there'll be something I'm interested in buying" but because "I'll want to come back for more free porn..." Once again, these folks eat bandwidth and lower your per-visitor value. While you can't keep folks from bookmarking, you might not want to encourage it by including one of those 'easy bookmarking' links on your website.

Another major aspect of surfer worth is how you deal with exit traffic. This is particularly true of pay sites that are paying for traffic, either as an outright purchase or through affiliate schemes. In this case, you can't afford to simply let the surfer pass through your website. If your main offer doesn't work, try something else. Then send the surfer to your own sponsor and perhaps off to a trade or top list after that.

At the end of the day, anything that you can do to increase the quality, rather than simply the quantity, of your traffic will increase your profits. Knowing what the quality of your current traffic is requires only some simple mathematics. Improving the quality of that traffic requires careful thought and often hard choices. Focus on the value of a single visitor to your website and you will be ahead of the game...