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Free is Not Really Free Traffic Generation

The reason free is not really free traffic generation?  There’s no such thing as a free lunch – and that applies to traffic generation on the Internet as well. “Free traffic generation” methods may sound great, but they also come with their share of not so obvious drawbacks.

The Cost of Free Traffic Generation

First of all, you have to think about the time and energy that goes into building high-volume traffic on the Internet. Even if you’re only spending one hour per work day on traffic generation techniques, that translates into at least 20 hours a month. Even at bargain-basement prices ($15 to $50/hour), that translates into anywhere from $300 to $1000 a month for work that somebody has to accomplish.

That’s just the start.

Consider one of the most popular “free” methods for generating Internet traffic – building up connections with social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

In a best-case scenario, you already have a Facebook fan page, Twitter account or Instagram account set up.

But how well are you optimizing this content?

Again, assuming just the bare-bones minimum of 1 hour per day devoted to social media, that’s still a significant time and energy investment. No wonder many fledgling businesses outsource this to interns – it’s a quick, easy way to generate content cheaply.

But that raises another issue – at what point does free traffic generation evolve into paid traffic generation?

Take Facebook, for example.

Assume that you have an low cost college intern generating fun, engaging posts on a regular basis – you still may end up paying Facebook for “sponsored posts” or to run cheap Facebook ads to attract fans to your page.

Finally, consider how the arrival of new platforms can completely change the meaning of “free.”

When everyone used their desktop PC to browse the Internet, the obvious way to get free traffic was to game the Google search engine.  Just by optimizing your website for search, you might be able to generate steady, not insignificant, traffic to your website because at some point, everyone was using their desktop browser and the Google search engine.

But then along comes mobile and now what? Now, you have to think about how to generate traffic via mobile, since mobile has now passed desktop as the most popular way for people to browse the Internet. People don’t use Google search as a way to navigate their tiny screens, they use apps.

So that raises the question – do you really want to invest in building an app that people may or may not use? And, if you don’t, are you willing to invest in the types of upgrades to your Internet presence – such as making your website “responsive” to the way mobile users navigate their devices – that will make your business a mobile-first business?

Those are just three of the reasons why “free” is not really “free” when it comes to Internet traffic.

Just to recap – you have the sunk cost of investing in the type of content that will attract people to your site. You have the diminishing returns from gaming the Google search algorithm (which doesn’t work and I do not recommend doing this anyway).   And you have the risk of the goal posts being moved in the middle of the game anytime there’s a wide-scale adoption of a new platform or ecosystem.

So, the big takeaway is this: Go for all the free traffic you can, but realize that, at some point down the road, you may need to invest small amounts of cash to propel your Internet business to the next stage.

Free is Not Really Free Traffic Generation Infographic

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