In the the last 3 years I have been lucky enough to get some decent mainstream media coverage including appearing on the Dragons' Den UK for Lookandtaste, getting covered in Techcrunch here, making the homepage of Digg, getting stumbled plenty of times and appearing in the LA Times and every single time the traffic graph looks similar to the one below. At the time it can seem like one of the most exciting things to ever happen when you are looking at dizzying traffic numbers that are 100 times what you would get on an average day but what long term effect does this have? Are any of the visitors that come to your site going to hang around? Are they going to come back week after week and become regular readers or even customers of yours? The answer for the most part is a resounding no. People stop by for a nosy on your site but chances are they will never be back. Unless you have some simple ways of capturing a percentage of them like we have explained here...
Average Traffic Spike Graph
This is the graph from when this site got covered recently on Techcrunch. As you will see there is a massive spike when the article first appears followed by a couple of smaller spikes when other sites pick it up and create a knock on traffic effect from the coverage. From my experience a spike in traffic will always look like this...
As you will see there is a massive spike where thousands of new readers stop by to look at the story but as is expected very few return. If you look very carefully at the graph though you will see that the baseline figure has increased significantly once the dramatic spike has passed. This is no accident and some of the reasons for this are explained below. To put this in context here is a traffic spike I experienced a couple of years ago when I was just caught up in the moment of the traffic and as you can see it just flat lines and goes back to where the original traffic was in the first place after a couple of weeks which is no good to anybody and is a massive wasted opportunity...
How To Benefit From Traffic Spikes
Everybody is going to get a traffic spike at some stage for their website no matter how small. Chances are you will write or photograph something that people find massively interesting and it will spread like wildfire over the internet. You'll get caught up in the huge amount of traffic you are being sent and think it is the best thing that has ever happened to you but in truth it is just another 15 minutes of fame unless you have some triggers in place that can help you capitalize fully. The reason the baseline figure on the top graph is higher after the spike is because this blog has some key calls to action that help bring people into the network...
You need some sort of distinctive RSS symbol so as people can click on it and subscribe in an instant. This is the most powerful form of conversion as this is somebody who is effectively saying "I like what I see and I'd like to get an update every time you post something new". An RSS reader is somebody who is not only going to read your content in the future but who could also possibly share and promote your content to others in their network in the future if it is good enough.
This might not apply to everybody but there is a business behind this blog and at the end of the day we need to pay the rent by attracting clients. We wanted people to come on to our site and be in no doubt as to how they could get in touch with us. After the spike we received 3 calls directly from international clients looking for representation. The phone numbers are incredibly clear for all to see and include a mobile just in case it is outside office hours (which one call was).
This is more of an in-direct traffic driver but the article and coverage generated over 50 emails from people asking us questions about what we do and general questions about the blog. All of those emails were answered immediately and personally. People respond to great customer service and a knowing that there is a real person behind a blog or website and several of those people who emailed are now dedicated readers of this blog which they may not be had they not emailed and started a conversation.
We all know and trust Facebook. The widget on the right hand side of the page allows people to become our fan on Facebook with one click of a button. Many people do this and as we post all stories from the blog here to our Facebook Fan page they are continually drawn back to the blog thanks to the stories popping up in their Facebook stream. Having seen stories they like several times they are more likely to become regular readers and come to the blog on their own accord.
We make lots of videos over on YouTube
and want to show these off as much as possible and with a simple box on the right hand side of the page (opening in a new window so as not to take people away from your blog too early) we show the videos off and send people to our video page where they might just subscribe and become long term fans of our videos and get an update direct to their email every time we post a new video.
Possibly the most important call to action of the lot. We try to create something really special with our newsletter and for that reason it gets the most prominent position on the homepage and it converts really well into people signing up. Somebody who gets the newsletter (we make sure to make it easy to un-subscribe and make the content worthwhile) is engaged with you for as long as they stay subscribed and are turned from being a passer by in to a long term reader of your blog.
This is a simple little button that you see at the top of every post. If the content is good enough you want people to share it with their followers on Twitter and by providing them with a simple one click solution to do this you are increasing the chances of even more people seeing your content and repeating all the steps that are laid out above.
Get Your House In Order
Everybody is going to get a traffic spike at some stage on their site and you need to be ready for it. Chances are that you won't have the time to get all these things implemented in time so have them in place in order to get maximum benefit out of the traffic spike when it does come. Converting passers by in to long term engaged readers is the key and sadly your good content alone is not going to do that, you'll need to capture people in the 60 odd seconds they are on your site and nudge them back there in the future. I wish I had known this sort of stuff when I had sites in the past as it really is crucial in building long term traffic and increasing your readers, fans and subscribers.
What has your experience been with traffic spikes? Did you get any long term gain out of them or have any better solutions than ours above?