Case Study: Which Source of Web Traffic Converts the Best?

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m trying to tell you not to do something I did for years. Obsess over traffic. Or at least traffic volume.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, traffic isn’t important, targeted traffic is. In this post I’m going to give you some very specific results that show how much you would be missing if you focused solely on traffic volume and not at the type of traffic you are getting.

You see, the week before last as an experiment I spent 3 hours on 12 different traffic strategies. I measured the time spent, the volume of traffic that resulted, and the conversions (signups to my free business reporting app).

In this post I’m going to reveal all of the numbers in detail, convince you of the importance of getting serious about delving further into Google Analytics and hopefully even give you some traffic ideas.

The Experiment

My new startup is a web app that simplifies website stats called Web Control Room. Since I want people to sign up for it I dreamed up 12 different ways I could go about getting some traffic and I measured the strategies using the Advanced Segments in Analytics.

All of these strategies other than Google Adwords were free.

3 Important Notes:

  1. I also use other strategies for generating traffic that I didn’t spend time on during the period, but they haven’t been included in this post.
  2. Since the sample size is small, this isn’t really an end all, be all case study. Just an interesting and fun experiment.
  3. While the “conversion” in this experiment is to track email opt-ins for a pre-launch, the emails don’t necessarily mean that they will eventually become a user, paying customer, etc. In the end, you’ll need to determine what the most important stat to track conversion really is for your project (most likely paying customers or email subscribers).

The 12 Strategies

Here is a list of the 12 things I spent time on for the experiment with a brief description of each. I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments about these.

  1. Adwords – I wasted spent $380 and around 3 hours configuring and setting up 3 different Adwords campaigns. This was partly to test the traffic but also partly to test different messages to see what appealed to the customer.
  2. Guest Content – During the period, two of my guest posts were published (one on Problogger and one on Click Newz). I had actually written these a few weeks earlier but they took around 3 hours to write.
  3. Twitter auto follow – I set up Tweet Adder to auto follow anyone who followed my main competitors. I also set it to unfollow anyone who doesn’t follow me within 7 days and direct message everyone who follows me with a message letting them know about the app. I did this on my secondary twitter account so I didn’t clog up my main personal one. This took about 20 minutes (I already owned Tweet Adder).
  4. Blog ads – I made a deal with the new owner of my recently sold blog that I would provide some content to him and in return he would keep the links on the site to Web Control Room and put a big ad on the site for the app. I spent a few hours on the ad and on a ghost written guest post on the site (not yet published).
  5. Email newsletter – I have my own email list with about 2000 subscribers and also have the list of people who have already signed up for my app. During the week I sent out an email to my list (not about the app) and one to the app list about a new version. I wasn’t expecting many conversions from the app list since they are pretty much all current users.
  6. Podcast – I started a podcast where I didn’t specifically talk about my app, but it came up naturally in conversation.
  7. Social media – I generally spend 3 hours+ on social media sites in one way or another so I didn’t do too much extra in this regard. I’ve tracked the traffic that came through the major social platforms that I am active on (Facebook and Twitter mainly, Pinterest when I’m really distracted!).
  8. Free forums – I posted 5 posts in a forum that I’ve been a member in for a long time, posted 2 more in the Warrior forum, and signed up to 2 new forums and posted introductory threads. The posts in the older forums didn’t mention my app but I have signatures that do. The intro posts I mentioned it where I could (tried on sitepoint but got a warning).
  9. Onsite content / SEO – I wrote an article on metrics for podcasters and then spent some time analyzing keywords and doing some onsite optimization for the ‘podcast statistics’ keyword. I then did a little bit of link building including adding some internal links, a few blog comments on other blogs with a focus on commentLuv blogs, and a forum post on the Apple forums.
  10. Videos – I went slightly overboard with the videos. It took me a while to do my first and then after I’d done one I wanted to do all of the major topics I’d covered on my blog. So I spent 5 hours and 45 minutes and produced 5 videos in total (around 35 minutes). Here is an example.
  11. Blog commenting – I spent 3 hours finding and commenting on blogs (generally commentLuv blogs). I left 31 comments on 29 different blogs (this is in addition to the commenting for the SEO above).
  12. Quora – I spent 3 hours in total on Quora, first reading this Kiss Metrics article then signing into my old inactive account, configuring my profile and adding my links, following lots of people from my networks, following about 20 boards and 5-10 questions then submitting answers to about 16 questions. Some very detailed like this one and some slightly tongue in cheek like this one.

The 8 Worst Performers

8 of the traffic strategies got zero conversions. These are listed here in order of traffic volume.

  • Adwords visits: 268 (cost $380 – ouch!)
  • Email newsletter visits: 28
  • Blog commenting visits: 11
  • Blog advertising deal visits: 9
  • Podcast visits: 9
  • Content /SEO: 41 (visits to podcasting stats article)
  • Quora visits: 3
  • Video visits: 1 (from Youtube)

It’s worth mentioning a few things about the stats above:

First off, I’m no Adwords guru and I’m sure that my campaign could have been optimized much better. I think it nonetheless demonstrates how dangerous Adwords can be if you are just looking at traffic volume.

With my podcast I don’t have any specific call to action in the show to a specific trackable page so the only way I have of measuring this is the referral traffic from the podcast site. This really isn’t a very accurate measure so I will be adding a call to action to a trackable page to test this further.

In regards to the video traffic, I uploaded these videos to a brand new Youtube account and didn’t do anything to promote them other than Tweeted them out once. Building any kind of traffic strategy via YouTube would be a much more long term endeavour.

Having said all of that, I think these numbers certainly gave me enough information to make some changes and work out where I want to spend the majority of my time.

The 4 Best Performers

Fourth best on my list was guest blogging. The total traffic was 46 visits and there were 2 conversions giving me a conversion rate of 4.35%. This is lower than I expected. I thought in particular that the Problogger post would generate more traffic.

Third on my list was the forum participation. From the forums I only got 28 visits but I also got 2 conversions giving me a conversion rate of 7.14%. With only 28 visits it’s hard to know how accurate this is but that conversion rate is very high so I will pursue this more and see if this remains true.

Second on my list was social media. This is a bit of a tricky one to measure because the traffic from social media generally comes to the site because of my onsite content efforts (which I measure separately) so there is some overlap there. However, I do know that the traffic from social media in this particular case was not for my podcasting article so I’ve included it as a separate source. In total there were 40 visits from social media and 3 conversions at 7.5%. Interestingly while Twitter referred the most visitors, all of the signups came from Facebook.

Finally in first place to my amazement was the Twitter auto follower strategy which referred 104 visits and 6 conversions (at 5.77%). This was the one I spent by far the least amount of time on so I’m extremely interested to continue to test with this to see what else I can do here.

What I Learned

First of all I’m not going to pursue a few of the techniques anymore; particularly blog commenting, Adwords and Quora. While the sample size is small, I’m comfortable enough with it to decide that there are better ways to spend my time / money.

In terms of onsite content I will probably continue to produce content that can give me other benefits (engaging my audience, helping customers, etc.) and not see it so much as a short term traffic strategy. However, I am still a big fan of onsite content as a long term traffic strategy and if I look at all of the articles I have written on the site to date and the amount of traffic I am getting for those it shows that it is still a good way to generate traffic long term (albeit at a comparatively low conversion rate).

I’m going to monitor the blog advertising deal and if that doesn’t improve I’ll probably discontinue that. I’m also going to embed a specific offer into my podcast to see how well that converts. I have heard from friends who are podcasters that their show is their highest converting traffic source so I’m keen to test this properly.

I was very surprised that the Twitter auto follower strategy converted so well. The best part about that is it runs 24 / 7 without me doing anything but there is some risk associated with it and once you start following 2,000 people the Twitter rules kick in making it a much slower process. Nonetheless I’ve got some ideas on how I might go about scaling this strategy a bit.

I’m going to be experimenting more with different social media channels, perhaps do some individual tests with Pinterest, delve into Facebook more, and possibly look at LinkedIn groups. I may even look at paid Facebook ads if the Facebook conversions hold up with more traffic.

I’ll also be allocating specific time each week to forums and guest blogging given the results I got here.

Your Turn

I’d love to know what you think of this experiment and any of the traffic strategies mentioned.

Where is your best traffic coming from?

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  • http://jadecraven.com Jade Craven

    The Problogger post flopped because you looked at the traffic rather then the target audience. The problogger audience is mostly newbies so it typically converts low unless the offer is targeted towards them. Also, most of the posts are guest posts and each end with a pitch so conversions in general are rather low.

    It´s always worth doing experiments, especially when analysing traffic from the top tier blogs :) Rather then going for direct traffic I prefer to seed stuff in communities and encourage organic conversation. The 5 T model by Andy Sernovitz is quite useful for this. You can get it as free worksheet from here: http://wordofmouthbook.com/ or as part of the book

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hi Jade, thanks for your comment. Bloggers are definitely in my target audience but yeah I could have thought out the audience a bit better. I actually wasn’t really expecting them to put the article up.

      Thanks for your tips re Word of Mouth book, I’ll check that out. I just started looking at the Mint Marketing Plan from App Sumo which I think is going to be useful for when I launch too.

      Thanks again

  • http://www.nicholasreese.com Nick Reese

    So interesting to see that the auto follow strategy worked so well. I wouldn’t have expected that.

    • http://www.trafficsalad.com/case-studies/ Ryan Cruz

      The auto follow strategy works extremely well. In fact, if you auto follow people talking about your “niche” and they see that you are talking about that “niche” they will most likely follow you on twitter. And once they follow you, I found out that about 30% click on your profile link in twitter. And because they’re already interested in your niche, you’ll get a higher conversion than cold traffic.

      Anyway this is a Great post Dan

      Not sure about the security issues in Web Control room. Especially with the paypal stats. Does it have read only access just like mint?

      Thanks Dan!

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      @Nick, yeah me either, it was interesting.

      @Ryan, yes we don’t actually save the data or your passwords. Quite a few people have brought this up. I put this post up yesterday about how it works http://webcontrolroom.com/security-and-privacy/

      I’m not sure how mint.com works I would think they would have to save your data because you are interacting with it right? In my case I’m just presenting the information. Hope that makes sense.

  • http://copymatter.com Mustafa Khundmiri

    Great case study there! Even though the numbers aren’t that big, they still matter.

    For me, the biggest traffic generator so far has been Twitter. I haven’t spent any time following or auto-following people – just regular tweeting. I think the best way to tap into Twitter’s massive traffic source is to create content that people want. It’ll not only get Twitterers to spread the word about you, but will also fetch you more followers.

    Also, I’m pretty surprised with the blog commenting traffic results. Even though you left 31 comments on 29 different blogs the returns aren’t impressive. Blog commenting has worked well for me in generating traffic that actually converts. For example, I’ve gotten 65 visits in the past 30 days from commenting here on ThinkTraffic ALONE. So I think blog commenting is about:

    a) Commenting on high quality, high traffic blogs instead of going for quantity
    b) Leaving insightful comments that add value to the blog post and make people curious enough to visit your website.

    As far as conversions go, I think they really depend on the source of your traffic. My latest guest post on IncomeDiary is sending me traffic that is converting at 9-10% because the content is of good quality. Also, you need to have some targeted content on your blog/site as well to get more people to opt-in, especially when you’re lacking social proof.

    Generating targeted traffic that converts is not rocket science as long as you’re focusing on quality. However, you do need to do a lot of testing and tweaking to find something that works for you. And above all, it takes time to build real traffic – so patience and perseverance go a long way.

    All the best with all your future experiments! :)

    - Mustafa

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Mustafa interesting.

      Re Twitter, I agree in my last 3 sites, Twitter has always been up there just behind Google as the biggest traffic referrer. And my strategy has always been about creating useful content, Twitter seems to be a good way to share it.

      That’s interesting about blog comments, I wasn’t commenting on blogs as big as this so that could be part of it but that’s good it’s working well for you.

      Good point about having something useful on your site that relates to the audience of the blog too.

  • http://www.theveganmenu.com Bethany

    I originally spent $20 in Facebook advertising. This got me 30 new “likes” and not much else. After that, I received a free $75 coupon from facebook, I knew how to use them a bit better and got about 120 likes. I don’t feel like I get many conversions from facebook, but I do think it helps establish credibility with both customers and other bloggers. I’m not sure how, but its been 2 months and I now have 820 “likes.” But have they converted…not really.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Wow that sounds like a lot. I did a competition in my last business that costs me about $20 and got me 1000 likes. You can see that here goo.gl/02Ee8

      I’m not sure my engagement on Facebook really increased much at all although I didn’t measure the change in traffic to my site. I think if they have legitimately liked your page though that would be a lot better.

  • http://www.bestautorespondertips.com Jane

    I’ve burned my pocket earlier on Adsense campaigns and I’m no Adsense expert either. I don’t think adsense is a good fit for small biz bloggers (it fits companies nicer since they have some money to invest and test)!

    Nevertheless I second you that guest blogging is one of the smartest ways to generate targeted traffic. That’s from my experience!

    Thanks for sharing the lessons you learned.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      No worries, glad it helped.

  • http://cathypresland.com Cathy Presland

    Really interesting. I personally love forums for people who are selling services. They are time consuming and you’ll prob get low volume if all you’re interetested in is numbers. But to get people to become customers (and quickly) I haven’t found a better way online.

    I also love twitter for traffic. Conversions for me depend on the opt-in offer (of course they do ;)) and then conversions to customers… really variable.

    I’m not a big fan of facebook but I am eating my words right now as I just did a launch and I think about 80% of the peopel who bought came from facebook connections and groups I am in. I know why – it’s about targeting – it was a really specific offer. Most traffic came from twitter. But of course traffic isn’t sales…

    I’ve also had good traction in the past with advertising – but it does take a while to get it right and also the quality tends to be lower (when it comes to sales and length they stay on my list) but if you have a good follow-up sequence I think it can work well.

    I always like to see posts with stats so congratulations for tracking and thanks so much for sharing :)

    Cathy

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Yeah I like forums too, I spend quite a bit of time in forums and I’ve always found it a good way to meet other like minded people but also get some eyes on your content and customers too.

      I’ve never really had much success with any kind of paid advertising I guess it’s a specialised area in itself but that’s good it’s worked for you.

      No worries re the stats ha, I like numbers (even if they are a bit small).

  • http://www.freemakemoneyadvice.com/ Erik Emanuelli

    Great case study, thanks for sharing!
    Suprised about Twitter. People keep saying this social network is dead,
    but it is one of my source of daily traffic.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Yeah Twitter is a great source of traffic particularly for B2B it’s also a great place to network up. i.e. engaging with people who are higher up the chain. It’s a bit harder to do this on Facebook but Twitter is perfect for it. And that can eventually send you a hell of a lot of traffic if you get to know the right people.

  • http://gabejohansson.com Gabe Johansson

    I am thinking the conversion process needs to be worked on. My blog as a whole converts unique visitors to subscribers at just over 10%, and some pages at 18%.

    This is from all traffic. Some sources have converted at 30% (at least that’s what Google Analytics says), like WarriorForum and one blog I comment on. These are all low compared to what I’m used to though.

    These are just my blog posts and pages though.

    I’ve spent a lot of time making squeeze pages that convert at a minimum of 40% over 1000 clicks doing solo ad testing. These stats hold true from clicks on my blog to those pages. Then again, that’s probably why the conversions are higher. Fewer people are actually clicking through to the squeeze page, but a higher percentage subscribe.

    I split test like there’s no tomorrow. I have 4 pages rotating as of now and will continue that until 1000 clicks each. It might take a while, but that should be around 1600 subscribers or more. Then I’ll start a new test!

    This is still useful information, and I’m glad my Twitter obesession has some future as its starting to work well haha

    Thanks a bunch,
    -Gabe

    P.S. My number 1 traffic source is solo ads for subscribers AND sale conversion! Blog to sales is a close second, but with nowhere near the same number of subscribers.

    P.P.S. Tracking and testing everything makes your life easier, as you proved in this post. Thanks!

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Gabe. There is one major difference here though. I wasn’t just asking for them to opt in for a newsletter, I was asking them to sign up to use my application. Conversions would have been exponentially higher if I was just running a squeeze page (the page there is there now has only been put up in the last few days since we closed the beta).

      But yeah I definitely could have put up a tighter converting page, that will be what I focus on after I launch, the next version of the site is a lot different and I’ll be split testing different messages and inclusions etc. I’m also going to track who clicks on different features to work out which features are the most interesting to people, then focus on those and see if that impacts on conversions.

      The other thing I’m doing is I’ve installed KissMetrics so I can track who actually signs up for a paid plan. This is crucial because I don’t only want to attract free users.

      I’m not sure what you mean by solo ads for subscribers? Anyway, agree tracking is very important I’m very much looking forward to building Kiss Metrics into my app as well and being able to track all of that as well – that will tell me a lot about how people are using the app and free to paid conversion etc.

      Thanks for the detailed comment.

  • http://www.myjapanesegreentea.com Ricardo Caicedo

    I’m surprised that the mailing list got so few visits. Isn’t it supposed to be the best way to get convertions?

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Ricardo, yeah well there’s a few things here. 1 is it depends how targeted the list is. If the content you are producing to build the mailing list isn’t all that related to what you are trying to convert then it’s not going to convert very well. My mailing list was built off my old web design blog so it was a lot of small business owners, bloggers, web designers etc. They are kind of the same audience but the new business is very different to the old one.

      The other thing is these people have already been told about the app quite a few times. So I suspect those that are keen have probably already checked it out.

      And finally there wasn’t a direct pitch in the email newsletters, they were really about a different topic – I just email my list with interesting information about articles I’ve written or my podcast etc. They aren’t really directly trying to sell to the audience.

      Hope that makes sense.

  • http://www.bluecollarworkman.com TB at BlueCollarWorkman

    Well, I’m still a relatively new blog — my traffic now is probably half google search traffic and half from blog comments I left on other pages. I’ve been getting more and more RSS feed hits and Twitter hits, but that’s only just starting climbing. Adwords just gave me a free $100 to try them out, so I was thinking of trying that, but it looks like it might not do much other than a short spike in visitors. Very interesting post, thanks man!

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey TB, good stuff. Yeah I’d use the voucher for sure. Do your research on Adwords though and get very very specific about your keywords. Just pick out the really long tail ones that really specifically describe what your potential customers might be searching for. You won’t get quick traffic this way but you’ll be much less likely to waste your money.

      Blogging is really all about your audience and your content. If you can produce exceptional unique content, and you can build an audience on social media and you can get in front of other bloggers audiences (ideally over time being close enough to other bloggers for them to talk about you as opposed to just guest posting) then you will go along way to making it work.

      It’s not easy though. In my last blog I blogged for 2 years and had a site that dominated google for some major keywords but I still found it very difficult to build a big following on my blog, it’s hard work.

      The other thing is longtail traffic will become a big source (of probably fairly low converting traffic). You’ll get there by just writing more. Ideally if you target each post to a longtail keyword that will work better but even if you don’t and you just push out loads of content you’ll definitely notice a gradual snowball of traffic over time. Make it great, sharable content and this multiplies.

      Good luck.

  • http://www.TheGreatBusinessProject.com Ralph Quintero

    Thanks for taking the time to do this Dan! I spend a great deal of time testing different traffic methods, but wonder many times if other people are getting the same kind of results. While my results are not exactly like yours, there are a couple that fall right in line like Quora, blog advertising and Adwords (BTW, I’ve gotten much better results from Facebook advertising for my target audience.) Curious to hear other people’s comments.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Ralph good to hear. Your site looks awesome too. I know Greg too I’m going to check out your podcast. You should put an iTunes link on your podcast page too.

      Yeah I’m definitely going to check out Facebook some more particularly once I have some better targeting for my customers. I need a bit more information first on who the app appeals to.

      Thanks again

  • http://www.howtoearnmoneyonlinehq.com Ryan

    That is really interesting about Twitter autofollow. That one is the simplest of all to use, and there are a number of ways to find potential customers by knowing the types of things that they would tweet about. The funny thing is that I have been feeling pressure to put out a youtube video and your post helped me to relax a little. Thanks for the great content.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Ryan, thanks. I wouldn’t totally give up on youtube. There were a lot of things to consider with my videos.

      Firstly I have no presence on YouTube. When I sold my last company the youtube account went with it so I’m starting from scratch. I think like natural SEO, it’s more of a long term thing.

      It’s also been pointed out that the videos were too long and shorter videos are better which I think is probably accurate too.

  • http://www.mybuddhistlife.com Padma

    I run a fairly new blog about practising Buddhism in the modern world. My day job is writing for the web. I’ve found that for my own blog, word of mouth works best – either Twitter or Facebook. My traffic is about 50:50 new vs returning visitors, so I’m hoping this will build and build.

    Working with clients I’ve found Adwords can work really well provided you target keywords tightly, watch and modify your campaign based on click-throughs and conversions, and have something to sell that people will buy from a stranger online.

    Also, the user journey once people arrive on your site has to be pretty well thought out – there has to be a reason for people to take the next step, and the next, and the next.

    I’ve actually been thinking of giving adwords a go for my blog, but since I have nothing to sell on it, this would be a bit of a luxury! Still, if you’re putting in the effort to write regular quality posts, you want people to read them, right?!

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hi Padma, good stuff. If people are talking about you then you have the first big sussed – having decent content. The rest takes time.

      Yeah that’s a good point re Adwords. My campaign wasn’t optimised at all but I think for a freemium app like this it would be very difficult to make adwords work. I’d have to multiply every conversion rate by my free to paid conversion rate (which could be 1% of lower) so that pretty much kills any paid traffic I think. But I will look into it more when I launch.

      Re your blog, yeah you do want people to read them but I wouldn’t be paying Adwords just to get readers. I’d be focusing on doing what I did in this post, test a bunch of stuff and make sure you at least put in an email sign up so you can have some way of measuring conversions. Once you know the types of traffic sources sending you the highest converting traffic then you might figure out what to sell those people and then look at Adwords again.

  • http://www.theartofadd.com Andrea

    I’m pretty new to blogging but so far my experience has been pretty similar. Lots of hits from Adwords but very almost no conversions. Likewise, email newsletters haven’t converted that well either. Twitter has been my best, but Facebook a close second – all from Facebook ads. In my opinion, they are much more cost efficient and target the right audience better than Adwords. Like a warm lead rather than cold calling. Great post – I look forward to hearing about your Pinterest and Facebook experiments.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hi Andrea yeah depending on your topic I think that makes sense re Facebook.

      You’re site is very timely for me! I’ve signed up so obviously blog commenting is a good strategy ha ha. For something like yours I would test commenting on commentluv blogs too. Because they will show your last post people can see straight away what your site is about and since your’s is fairly specific anyone interested it is likely to notice it. The strategy might work like this:

      1. Pick out some ideal customers. Let’s say one of them is lifestyle entrepreneurs.
      2. Write a blog post about How this lifestyle entrepreneur mastered his ADD or whatever
      3. Comment on a bunch of digital nomad blogs that use comment luv and it will show your last post

      I’d comment on other blogs too but this way people can see a direct link to something that they might relate to.

      Anyway thanks for your comment.

      Dan

    • http://www.theartofadd.com Andrea

      Excellent idea Dan, thanks for sharing. Had no idea about commentluv (as I said, total newbie here). Will definitely try it out. Thanks for all the great tips – hope you find my blog useful!

  • http://skim.me Clinton Wu

    This is a great case study. We’ve been experimenting with different channels too at Skim.Me over the past three months. It’s great to hear about the twitter autofollow strategy. We had just been trying to brute force tweet folks around keywords we were following.

    Our biggest source of traffic and signups has been blog commenting. Key here has been actually adding value to the conversation instead of just spamming with a link. Think Mustafa alludes to it in his comments above. Yeah, you have to get your company plug in there but it has to come across as authentic. That means actually reading the post. All our comments have the same core theme but tailored around the content. We setup Google Alerts to follow keywords in areas we care about and post from there. Also, commenting on Hacker News has been a big driver if that could be part of your target audience.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hi Clinton

      Your service seems interesting, site looks cool too and nice domain name.

      Yeah I definitely make sure I always add value in my comments if I can. Maybe I was picking the wrong blogs not sure.

      Good tip re Google alerts I haven’t thought of doing that for a blog commenting strategy. Yeah I really must get into hacker news I think there would definitely be people there interested in my app.

      Thanks for the tips.

  • http://www.timemanagement.sk Andrej Mikula

    Don’t tell me you’ve sent email to 2000 people and had just 28 visits. That’s like what… 1,4 % clickrate? That’s just not possible. Or did I misunderstood you?

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hi Andrej, yeah well the problem was that my email wasn’t about the app. The email list has been built up over years of running a web design business and writing about web design / SEO for small business so it’s really not very targeted. The app is also not news to them because I’ve mentioned it a number of times before.

      I am building a new list on the site now of people interested in the app for when I launch. I suspect that is going to convert a lot better than my existing personal list.

      Thanks for your reply.

    • http://www.timemanagement.sk Andrej Mikula

      Ah… I see now… Thank you for your reply.

  • http://www.CritterWisdom.com Carmelo

    Really interesting Dan! I think my biggest take-away from your post and from reading the comments is that everyone is going to be different AND that testing for yourself is the way to go. Yet, that said, I can see some obvious strategies that should be used right away.

    Maybe I missed it Dan, but did you use any specific landing pages for your click-throughs? Did you have a single landing page or create multiple ones for your various approaches?

    Thanks!

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Carmelo good stuff I’m glad it helped and 100% agree test everything for yourself.

      No, I generally just sent people back to the homepage which was set up to get people to create an account for the app. Since then I have closed the beta however so the page that is up there now is just a coming soon page with an email opt in. That page is obviously converting a lot better because it’s not asking people to create an account.

      I do have one specific landing page for Xero customers which you can see here http://webcontrolroom.com/xero-integration/ This page converts very well so I’m going to be looking at having different pages like this once I launch.

  • http://www.kingsofazon.com/ Austin

    I too am surprised at how few visits you got from your email marketing and am SHOCKED by your twitter success. We have a few niches sites where we have thousands of followers and have yet to see a conversion from any of the twitter traffic. Those same niches have small email lists which convert much better.

    The most important take away here, in my opinion, is to test test test. We are often shocked at our test results and have been able to increase conversions and revenue from simply running a few tests and analyzing the results.

    Great post and thanks for sharing the results of your traffic and conversion test!

    Here’s to your $uccess!

    ~Austin

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Wow, that’s interesting re Twitter.

      I’ve made some comments above about the email list but in summary neither the list or the email were targeted towards getting people to sign up for the app. I’ve got an email sign up on the site now because we are closed until we launch and I just noticed I’ve had 50 people opt in in the last 24 hours.

      I suspect this list is going to convert a lot better once we launch I’ll send out a direct email to a more targeted list to get them to check out the app. .

      Definitely agree re testing.

  • http://effectivewebmarketing.net Tim Dawes

    Nick,
    thanks for the great article. The thing that leaves me sad is that you spent by my count 24 hours of work to generate 13 email sign ups.

    Even if you only consider the 4 strategies that worked best, it’s still 7 hours of work for 13 sign ups.

    On the other hand, if you only consider Twitter, you have 20 minutes of work for 6 sign ups. That is by far the most productive.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      No it’s app users not email signups. It’s a very different matter.

      For example I have just closed the beta and put an email signup on the site instead and I’ve had 50 people sign up in the last 24 hours. This is from only a few hundred visits.

      But I really see this as a starting point. Continue to test and work out which strategies are the best then delve further into those and build specific messages for those etc. I’m confident I can gradually get a lot more return from my time. At least now I have some direction to go in.

      Yes Twitter is by far the most productive but it’s difficult to scale. Once you hit 2000 subscribers they get tighter around the rules for following people and it would be hard and a little bit spammy to do it with more than 1 account.

      Anyway maybe I can do a follow up post after I launch on what happens when I double down on the strategies that worked.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • http://www.mobileapptycoon.com Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon

    Interesting experiment… However, even though it appears you got the best results from auto following on Twitter I would definitely not recommend that to anyone, especially using TweetAdder. First off, Twitter is actively in legal battles with the makers of TweetAdder as well as others. Secondly, it’s against Twitter’s TOS to use TweetAdder or any auto-following software. Lastly, I can tell you first hand that if you are ever have problems with TweetAdder or it’s not working right – you’re screwed. The customer service is absolutely terrible – they give you the run-around and are very rude.

    I wouldn’t use any auto-following tool to begin with for the first two reasons, but if you’re going to – definitely stay away from TweetAdder. (Sorry about the rant – just want to provide some warning so others don’t have to deal with what I went through with them).

    Thomas

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Thomas, yeah I wouldn’t do this with my main account. But it’s an easy (albeit somewhat risky way) to test how effective the traffic source is.

      I’m still very surprised by how many signups I got using this technique but yeah I wouldn’t want to build my business off the back of auto following people on twitter (although there have been some great businesses built on the back of spamming people on craigslist which is no doubt against their terms of service too and also fraudulent).

      Sorry to hear you didn’t get good service with them. Sometimes I wonder about companies that sell a one off software like this. I always prefer to pay for recurring cloud services. Everybody is motivated to stick with it that way, things can get messy for companies that just charge a one off fee for software (i.e. market samurai the last few months).

  • http://marketingbeforefunding.com Mike Abasov

    I’m sorry, but your short timeframe gave you a sample size too small to draw any statistically significant conclusions.

    If another person had visited your site from your videos and signed up, you would’ve had a 50% conversion rate. What is that supposed to mean?

    Sorry Dan, but there are no lessons to learn here except that you need to have a larger sample size before you can write a case study.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Yes I pointed that out in the article. It’s a starting point and I’ll continue to monitor it over time. Most of these are continuing to hold relatively true though so far (although I’ve stopped the Twitter auto follow for now).

      Definitely some of the sources with very low traffic would have totally irrelevant conversion stats (if they had any conversions). But it’s the traffic stats that are most concerning about those anyway. The conversion rate isn’t everything. Even if Quora converted at 10% there’s nowhere near enough traffic there to make it worthwhile. So the traffic volume itself provides some insight.

      I’m sorry you didn’t take anything away from the post. Other people seem to have found it useful. But I take your point, it would be useful to do a follow up in a few months and see whether the results hold true.

    • http://marketingbeforefunding.com Mike Abasov

      I bet you got quite a bit of traffic from this post :)

      In any case, you need to work on your landing page first.
      Here’s a screenshot: http://screencast.com/t/wMuHzdqlFS

      What upsets me is that a whole bunch of people will start auto-following on Twitter after reading this. Not the best tactic out there and not something to be proud of.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Mike, ha that box actually should be on the right something is up there I’ll take a look at it. That page actually went up yesterday it’s not the same as the page I used for the test. The page for the test was getting people to sign up for the actual application not a pre-launch list.

      Yes it looks like I got a fair bit of traffic from this post, if I do a follow up post on longer term results I’ll cover that.

      Re people starting to auto follow people on Twitter.

      Firstly I’m not sure why you mention pride. Are you suggesting it’s unethical to follow people on Twitter? What if it was done manually? Would that be ok for you? There were only a few hundred people I could have quite easily done that within a 3 hour period. Better still I could have just said I did it manually and been dishonest about it but kept my pride in tact.

      I mentioned above that there are risks with the Twitter strategy. I’m not suggesting that people do it. I don’t even know if I’ll continue doing it. But I’ll certainly be ok sleeping at night after connecting with a few extra people on Twitter (by the way I’ve also had 2 phone calls with potential partners overseas that came directly from following these people on Twitter).

  • http://SupremacySEO.com Travis Jamison

    Hey Dan,
    In regards to your adwords usage, I’m curious as to how targeted your keywords were. Were they general or specific? Main key phrases or longtail stuff?

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Travis, yeah my Adwords were pretty broad. I was really mainly doing the Adwords to test some messaging around my app and what appealed to people. I am crap at Adwords but further to what I said the other day on the call (Adwords wouldn’t work for this business) this is my thinking.

      If you think about a normal freemium product you might get a free to paid conversion of say 1% (given a lot of users won’t even end up using the service this is pretty generous I think it could be a lot lower). So say you pay $1 / click and you convert 10% to free users there’s $10 for a free user. But then you have to multiply this by 100 again to account for free to paid conversion. So we’ve just paid $1,000 to acquire a user. 10% would be realistic I think for an optimised page. Perhaps you could get the clicks cheaper but even at 10c per click you are getting free users for $1 and paid users for $100.

      On a $9 / month app that is pretty hard to make work. That’s assuming the average customer sticks with the service for a year and at that point it becomes profitable (given churn etc this might be too high aswel).

      Maybe it would be possible, I’m no Adwords expert but I can’t see how it would.

    • http://SupremacySEO.com Travis Jamison

      I agree with you 100% that adwords is not right for this. I was more just curious as to why there were zero conversions and was wondering what your keyword choice looked like.
      As for the call, it’s a like 4am my time so I tend to forget.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Ha nice

  • http://www.glynisj.com/ Glynis Jolly

    Although you say that email newsletters where close to the bottom, I think having something come to the inbox is more likely to be followed up on. Could there be a difference depending in your niche?

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Yeah I’ve mentioned in the comments above that the email list isn’t targeted at all. I am building a pre-launch list on the site right now and I expect that list to convert very well. Especially when I send them a direct call to sign up for the app when it’s live.

      So I think it’s worth noting that it’s not that ‘Email lists’ are effective or ineffective, it’s all about how targeted people are. If you build your lists by giving away free ebooks about blogging and then try to sell them something unrelated to blogging then it’s not going to convert well.

  • Valentin

    Dan awesome case study buddy !

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Valentin, thanks mate, hopefully see you in BKK in October?

  • http://www.fctr.be/ Peter

    I have similar experience with AdWords. I have a feeling you need to be a true pro to get anything out of AdWords.

    Clearly, I’m going to need to use Twitter a little more. Did you use an active account that is regularly posting on topics related to the niche? Any automation there?

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Yeah I think Adwords is a specialist field. Yeah I’m posting with my account, I don’t automate any of the posting. Although in the past I have used a WordPress plugin to automate posts from the archive (that was for a different business).

  • http://www.listnowsellfast.net Duncan

    Great post and insight. Yea, I’ve blown through enough cash on adwords that I’m not sure I’ll ever use again. I’ve also tried facebook ads as well. I haven’t been using twitter much lately but after seeing Dan’s stats I CRANKED IT BACK UP tonight….thanks for sharing! Cheers! D

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Ha ha nice, good to hear Duncan.

  • http://www.listnowsellfast.net Duncan

    Hey dan, Like I said in my earlier comment. I cranked my twitter marketing up again. I could use some more tips though.

    I use Tweetadder and have it working on auto-pilot. I’m engaging a bit but am so focused in other areas that I don’t have enough time to really give it a good effort.

    Maybe you could PM me via email if you have some suggestions or can send me to a URL that would have some good tips on it….thanks again for the article…it was helpful if, for nothing else, I cranked up another tool that I had been ignoring that will work for me while I sleep..Cheerss!…D.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Duncan, we all have the same amount of time. The key is to make sure you use your time wisely. If you don’t have enough time to focus on Twitter then it means you are spending it on other things.

      My suggestion would be to run through an exercise like I did above. That way you will learn which areas give you the best return. Once you know this, stop focusing on the ones that don’t give you a good return and start focusing on the ones that do. Twitter may not be the best place for you, it could be right at the bottom of your list with something entirely different being at the top so that’s where I would start.

      Good luck, I hope that is helpful.

  • http://www.technofreaky.com technofreaky

    Very well written post. For me its organic source(google) that converts the best. Its just beginning for me and I am trying to get traffic from the other sources which you have mentioned.

  • http://www.ProTeethGuard.com JP

    Hey Dan, great case study.

    I imagine some of the traffic methods may produce second order effects… for example, guest posting (especially on authoritative sites) may increase the authority of your site, and as a result, your existing on-site content will get more exposure via organic search.

    I’m very surprised by the twitter auto-follow strategy as well! I’ll have to find a way to test that one out. =)

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey JP thanks for the comment. Yeah that’s definitely true there are relationships between a few of these things like the one you mentioned. Also onsite content might not convert that well but if I don’t produce onsite content then I don’t have much to say on social media (which does convert very well).

      The other thing is some of this stuff is much more long term like the onsite content / natural SEO one didn’t bring in much during that 2 week period but if you add in the 15 other articles I’ve written on the site over the last couple of months it becomes my biggest traffic source. So the impact is realised over time (although the conversion rates are still very low so I’m going to be hopefully addressing this with the new design).

  • http://www.jaysonlinereviews.com Jay

    Wow good case study first off very helpful. Adwords did not surprise me you really have to know what you are doing or you can lose the shirt off your back so to speak lol.

    My best traffic strategies are building my email list through paid classified ads, blogging like you, seo, document sharing, and social networking.

    I still do blog commenting here and there because I still see pretty good results from it.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Jay yeah re Adwords I wasn’t surprised it didn’t convert well but I was kind of surprised I didn’t get a single person sign up out of that much traffic. I haven’t done anything with classified ads, that’s interesting. A few people say they are getting good results with blog commenting, maybe my comments weren’t interesting enough ha.

  • http://allmarketingsolutions.co.uk/social-media-services Ayaz

    Hi Dan!

    Great experiment and excellent tips and certainly for me blog commenting and guest posting will do the better trick for you if you only want to use free forums but adwords is also great tool if you having the sufficient bugget.

    Thanks for providing great tips. :-)

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hi Ayaz, thanks for the comment. I’m also in a few paid forums but I didn’t include those in the experiment. I get a fair amount of traffic from those as well.

  • http://mammothmedia.org/digital-snake-oil-profile-of-a-social-media-guru/ Will Lang

    Phenomenal post, Dan. This is the first Think Traffic article I’ve stumbled upon and I really enjoyed reading this case study. Like most everyone else, I’m quite surprised by the success of the auto-follow strategy. I actually tend to go to the opposite way – when I receive an auto-dm I will often unfollow that person immediately. It’s a little harsh, I know.

    Ian Lurie from Portent did a similar post quite a while back where he provided some details on traffic received from Quora. He experienced very little traffic as well but managed to snag a few clients in the process. You could certainly count that as a conversion but of course a different measurement vs. newsletter signups.

    Speaking of newsletter signups, how about measuring how many you received from people landing on this particular article? Of course you would have to segment it down to measure only new visitors (which frankly is inexact in Google Analytics). Again, I signed up as a new visitor based solely on this article. I would guess I’m far from the only one.

    Great content. RSS subscribed.

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  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com/blog/what-no-one-teaches-you-at-internet-marketing-seminars-about-how-to-get-traffic-to-your-site/ Lewis LaLanne – MyNoteTakingNerd

    This very cool that you went through all that it took to test each of these. What I’d be highly interested in seeing the traffic sources tested over a longer time and see how the stats showed then. The one thing I would point out is that Google Adwords when used in timing with a launch can REALLY kick some butt. If you do a launch in the future, I would highly encourage you to test it again.

  • http://www.mingjongtey.com Ming Jong Tey

    Hi Dan,

    I love Tweet Adder and it certainly contribute to one of the great traffic source to my blog. I think it is great for long term traffic especially when the blog consists of more pillar post plus your Twitter followers keep growing!

    The no. of followers together with great content will definitely power up the opt in rate within the blog plus we can build up our cult via this automation tool!

    Cheers,
    Ming

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hi Ming, good stuff glad it’s working for you.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.wpsquare.com/ Bharat

    I always rely on Guest Blogging and seems like I have to move my hands to social media. Thanks for this important info and its time to implement things.

    Regards
    Bharat

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hi Bharat thanks for the comment. I’ve learnt a lot from the recent guest posts I’ve done, I’ve certainly got much more out of this one than the ones in the experiment so I think if it’s done correctly then it can definitely be quite powerful.

      Everything comes back to social media, if you are producing content you need to have a good social media presence, if you are wanting traffic from Google you need it. It can’t be ignored.

  • http://perfectearningtips.com IGBALAYE OLAYEMI

    Awesome post and i think it will help a lot of people there. my main two area that i focus for blog traffic are commenting and SEO…they are really helpful when it comes to gain traffic back to your site. thanks for sharing

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hi Igbalaye good stuff, a few people on here seem to get a lot more out of blog commenting than I did on my experiment.

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  • http://www.lifestylebusinessdesign.com/ Matt John Canty

    Epic post Dan :) I have had some success with getting traffic from twitter so “Twitter auto follow” here we come!! lol

    I wish you did some Facebook ads in your test as we are using that now and seeing average results something we might have to stop if results don’t improve soon.

    • http://webcontrolroom.com Dan Norris

      Hey Matt, great, let me know how you go. I have been thinking about Facebook ads but I’m mainly doing free traffic until I have a paid plan available. I think for a lot of things Facebook ads could be quite good, I’m thinking of using them to build up the likes on my Facebook page too.

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  • Antony

    Totally insane to draw conclusions and calculate conversion percentages out of sometimes 2 conversions!
    Your percentage would have been devided by two if just one random person had decided otherwise.
    You can’t base statistics on such limited amounts of data.

  • LoveDatingBuzz

    Amazing case study. I will definitely try some of the conversion strategies you have outlined here. Thank you for sharing, Dan!

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