educational

Turning on the Traffic

Scott Rabinowitz
It has been a long summer in our industry. Between world events, national disasters and heavy-duty business issues such as 2257 and overall record-keeping compliance, everyone has had their hands full. These things are, of course, in addition to more standard concerns for adult Internet businesses, such as acquiring traffic, either to generate direct sales or to generate sales for sponsors and advertisers.

Now that the fall season is upon us, everyone is increasing efforts to grab traffic, which makes this a good time to consider refinements to, or a creation of, your traffic gathering strategy.

In particular, traffic source retention should now be a major consideration for principals and marketing staff. Generally, we think of retention in the "member or already a customer" context, which is, of course quite important. That said, if you have enjoyed superb sales conversions from specific traffic sources — whether through affiliates, organic traffic generation from free sites or from media buys — consider focusing additional time and resources on the retention of the actual traffic sources that you know are working.

Would you rather have 1,000-plus affiliates that generate moderate or inconsistent levels of traffic, or does the idea of 100-plus active affiliates who have your best interests in mind seem like a better scenario?

Closed Network
There is a growing number of adult Internet firms that are offering a closed network affiliate program model, in which affiliates must either be invited into the program or must pass through a formal scrutiny process before being accepted. While many open network programs are successful in terms of volume of affiliates, traffic and sales, there are definite benefits to acquiring and managing a smaller base of affiliate marketing partners.

In particular, an affiliate program team can maintain more personalized working relationships with affiliates, and in many cases provide faster fulfillment of specific affiliate needs. This in turn will positively impact the loyalty and effort level of your affiliates. These satisfied affiliates will be more interested in leveraging their time, expertise and financial resources toward marketing your products on a continuous basis. It is definitely better to expand and fine tune existing business relationships than to maintain a revolving door where the sheer volume of vendors to manage can overwhelm even the most organized and well-staffed affiliate/paysite firm.

In this era of heavy focus on legal compliance and managing chargeback levels, smaller and better-managed affiliate relationships will help commerce site operators reduce the volume of questionable consumer traffic received from affiliates. Better traffic sources lead to lower chargebacks and higher levels of member retention. In time, this can mean that affiliate program operators can compensate their affiliate partners more competitively than mass-market programs, because the value of each hit and new customer will be higher than the value of leads generated through mass or non-specific targeting efforts spread across a huge network of sources.

On a similar level, if you are a webmaster building and promoting free sites, galleries, etc., and have great placement with particular search engines, isn't it worth the time to figure out how to make your best producing and well placed pages a bit more sticky?

While this should continue to be a priority, you can make additional efforts to keep your good traffic sources intact by offering content updates on your free and upsell pages. By doing this and by letting surfers know that your free pages could continue to offer new and interesting content samples and updated offers for paid access sites, you can generate and sustain recurring traffic to meet your business needs.

Making free and other upsell-type sites more compelling is not a new idea, but using this approach across all promotional pages and your overall collection of traffic-gathering venues can make a difference. It takes a lot of time and resources to build and promote sites and pages whose job it is to drive sales up the food chain to commerce sites.

Traffic Acquisitions
Media buying or traffic purchasing, which is a method used both by affiliate networks to promote their own commerce sites as well as by savvy affiliates, can and should follow the same theme of how to keep sources of traffic that work over the long term.

While good traffic sources that are purchased will cease to boost sales if you stop buying and paying the bills, there is more to these relationships than simply making timely payments.

Firms and sites that sell targeted traffic ultimately see patterns of behavior and levels of effort that ad-buyer clients put into campaigns. If you have left a purchased campaign running without updating text, banners or other creatives until you see a decline in performance, then you are likely having to scramble to free up labor from other projects to provide new campaign promotional materials.

Even if you have a text or banner ad that is working well, it is while that campaign is running smoothly that you should be working on new campaign materials that can be implemented on an ongoing basis to ensure materials remain fresh (in terms of what consumers see) and therefore financially productive.

If you operate a multi-site network that covers multiple niches, take the time to spread your financial risk by advertising as many of the sites as possible, especially with campaigns purchased from adult search sites.

Running 20 sites as part of a single campaign will mean a larger initial draw on labor resources to generate the required creative, etc. However, this will allow you to see multiple interpretations of the quality of a traffic source and will increase the likelihood that at least some of your sites will be a good match for some of the traffic available from a particular source.

On a similar level, try to avoid the temptation of focusing the bulk of your media buying and other marketing efforts solely on flagship mega sites. General erotica sites must compete against the largest number of competitor sites to acquire customers.

At the same time, buying small amounts of clicks that are highly targeted, such as those from search sites, will likely mean that when you get a click, you have a higher than average possibility of making not just the initial sale but also greater retention of these customers.

Retention Is King
The topic of traffic retention will continue to be of great importance as companies strive to increase long-term business prospects. It is reasonable to expect that the need for strategies that can help retain productive marketing channels will only expand as the adult Internet keeps growing. Long term planning for marketing efforts and having methods to ensure increased accuracy of financial forecasting will provide much-needed leverage and benefits for all industry firms.

Scott Rabinowitz is president of Traffic Dude, which has been overseeing some of the highest traffic volume adult media networks in the world. For more information on the company and its current offerings, visit www.trafficdude.com.

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