Free vs Paid Website Traffic

It’s easy to see why the idea of free traffic is appealing.

If you generate leads or makes sales via your website, then free traffic means free customer acquisition… Right?


Free traffic is never free.

There’s always a cost associated with generating that traffic.

And whether that’s time or money, it’s very real.

Let’s say you’re generating website traffic via Google and other search engines through search engine optimisation (SEO) activities…

Writing a blog, guest blogging, linking your website to other websites, etc.

All that takes a lot of time…

And even though a lot of small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t assign a monetary value to their time, they really should.

And if you’re posting content to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram the same logic applies.

There’s also no guarantee that those activities will ever produce meaningful results.

And even if they do, it’s most likely going to take months or even years.

However, if you buy website traffic (via Google AdWords, Facebook, etc) you can guarantee website visitors and you can be generating leads and sales from that traffic almost immediately.

There’s a lot of backwards thinking when it comes to paid vs free traffic.

The best explanation I have ever heard is from Ryan Deiss, CEO of Digital Marketer.

And to summarise… he said that if you wanted some rice there are two ways you can get it.

  • Find some land, flood it, find some rice seed, plant the seed, tend to the crops for months and provided nothing goes wrong you’ll have some rice.


  • Go to the store and buy some rice!

Of course, the vast majority of people take option number 2 when it comes to rice.

So why wouldn’t you do the same with website traffic?

And it will always be very easy to find stores that want to sell you rice.

Wherever people are hanging out digitally, you’ll be able to advertise to them on those platforms and pay to generate website traffic.

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Traffic Sustainability

I mentioned earlier that there’s no guarantee that SEO, organic social media posting and other free traffic generating activities will ever produce meaningful results…

In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that it won’t.

That’s because the digital platforms that can be used to generate free traffic, also offer paid advertising.

And you can guarantee that over time they’ll rig their platforms to favour the advertisers… because that’s how they make their money.

Most of them are already doing so.

All digital platforms go through a lifecycle.

When they first start, they want to attract plenty users, so they refrain from advertising.

We’ve seen this with Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Then once they have reached a critical mass (in some cases billions of users!) they steadily reduce the effectiveness of organic posting…

And basically demand that you pay to get your content seen.

10 years ago on Google, most people scrolled past the ads and clicked on the organic search results because they were often more relevant to whatever you were searching for.

Not many people do that now.

Take a look at this screenshot:

London Architect Google Search Results Page

This is exactly what Googled showed me on my laptop when I searched for london architects.

I haven’t cut the bottom off, that is exactly what I can see without scrolling down.

You can only just see the top of the map results.

The organic search results are all well below the fold.

Google only introduced the 4th ad place at the top of the page a month ago.

And over the past couple of years they have been steadily increasing the size of the ads.

Which as you can see has effectively made the organic search results far less prominent.

Why are they doing this?

Because if they rig their platform to encourage searchers to click on the ads more and the organic search results less…

They make more money!

Facebook is not as far along this process but they’re getting there.

Anyone who had a big Facebook following before 2015 will have noticed a massive difference between the amount of visibility their organic postings get now vs then.

Facebook is slowly filling our newsfeed with more and more ads, so there’s less space for organic postings.

Which means that paid posts are being clicked on more often than organic posts.

And again they’re doing this…

Because they make more money.

I’m sure you’re starting to see a pattern here.

A Long Term View

Now it is true that you can find free or very cheap traffic on brand new platforms…

At the time of writing, Snapchat would be the best example.

But you really need to know what you’re doing to be successful with a new platform.

Every one is different and has to have content created that is native to that platform if you want to develop a following quickly.

But this landscape changes so fast…

And if your customer acquisition strategy relies on this free or cheap traffic then you’re in trouble.

Developing a new following on a brand new platform every 6-12 months is incredibly difficult.

It’s much better to put yourself in a position where you can afford to pay for traffic.

You do that by developing more attractive offers to increase your conversion rate and generate more leads and sales from your website visitors…

And have more product and service offerings to increase your average customer lifetime value.

If you can afford to profitably pay for website traffic, then you’ll never have a traffic problem…

And you can create customer acquisition funnels that will produce results for years to come.

That is how you win in the long term.

Questions? Comments? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below.

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This template includes some of the best performing ads we’ve created for our clients in multiple industries and if you’re looking to promote your business on Facebook you’ll find it very useful.

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